The plasma degradome reflects later development of NASH fibrosis after liver transplant

Li, Jiang, et al. “The plasma degradome reflects later development of NASH fibrosis after liver transplant.” Scientific Reports 13.1 (2023): 9965.


Although liver transplantation (LT) is an effective therapy for cirrhosis, the risk of post-LT NASH is alarmingly high and is associated with accelerated progression to fibrosis/cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease and decreased survival. Lack of risk stratification strategies hampers early intervention against development of post-LT NASH fibrosis. The liver undergoes significant remodeling during inflammatory injury. During such remodeling, degraded peptide fragments (i.e., ‘degradome’) of the ECM and other proteins increase in plasma, making it a useful diagnostic/prognostic tool in chronic liver disease. To investigate whether liver injury caused by post-LT NASH would yield a unique degradome profile that is predictive of severe post-LT NASH fibrosis, a retrospective analysis of 22 biobanked samples from the Starzl Transplantation Institute (12 with post-LT NASH after 5 years and 10 without) was performed. Total plasma peptides were isolated and analyzed by 1D-LC–MS/MS analysis using a Proxeon EASY-nLC 1000 UHPLC and nanoelectrospray ionization into an Orbitrap Elite mass spectrometer. Qualitative and quantitative peptide features data were developed from MSn datasets using PEAKS Studio X (v10). LC–MS/MS yielded ~ 2700 identifiable peptide features based on the results from Peaks Studio analysis. Several peptides were significantly altered in patients that later developed fibrosis and heatmap analysis of the top 25 most significantly changed peptides, most of which were ECM-derived, clustered the 2 patient groups well. Supervised modeling of the dataset indicated that a fraction of the total peptide signal (~ 15%) could explain the differences between the groups, indicating a strong potential for representative biomarker selection. A similar degradome profile was observed when the plasma degradome patterns were compared being obesity sensitive (C57Bl6/J) and insensitive (AJ) mouse strains. The plasma degradome profile of post-LT patients yielded stark difference based on later development of post-LT NASH fibrosis. This approach could yield new “fingerprints” that can serve as minimally-invasive biomarkers of negative outcomes post-LT.