Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease with significant heterogeneity in its clinical presentation and pathobiology. There is need for improved understanding of respiratory lipid metabolism in asthma patients and its relation to observable clinical features. We performed a comprehensive, prospective, cross-sectional analysis of the lipid composition of induced sputum supernatant obtained from asthma patients with a range of disease severities, as well as from healthy controls. Induced sputum supernatant was collected from 211 adults with asthma and 41 healthy individuals enrolled onto the U-BIOPRED (Unbiased Biomarkers for the Prediction of Respiratory Disease Outcomes) study. Sputum lipidomes were characterized by semiquantitative shotgun mass spectrometry and clustered using topologic data analysis to identify lipid phenotypes. Shotgun lipidomics of induced sputum supernatant revealed a spectrum of 9 molecular phenotypes, highlighting not just significant differences between the sputum lipidomes of asthma patients and healthy controls, but also within the asthma patient population. Matching clinical, pathobiologic, proteomic, and transcriptomic data helped inform the underlying disease processes. Sputum lipid phenotypes with higher levels of nonendogenous, cell-derived lipids were associated with significantly worse asthma severity, worse lung function, and elevated granulocyte counts. We propose a novel mechanism of increased lipid loading in the epithelial lining fluid of asthma patients resulting from the secretion of extracellular vesicles by granulocytic inflammatory cells, which could reduce the ability of pulmonary surfactant to lower surface tension in asthmatic small airways,as well as compromise its role as an immune regulator.

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