Low circulating concentrations of very long chain saturated fatty acids are associated with high risk of mortality in kidney transplant recipients

Fabian A. Vogelpohl*, António W. Gomes-Neto, Ingrid A. Martini, Camilo G. Sotomayor, Dion Groothof, Maryse C.J. Osté, Rebecca M. Heiner-Fokkema, Frits A.J. Muskiet, Stefan P. Berger, Gerjan Navis, Ido P. Kema, Stephan J.L. Bakker

*Corresponding author for this work

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Kidney transplant recipients (KTR) are at increased risk of mortality, particularly from infectious diseases, due to lifelong immunosuppression. Although very long chain saturated fatty acids (VLSFA) have been identified as crucial for phagocytosis and clearance of infections, their association with mortality in immunocompromised patient groups has not been studied. In this prospective cohort study we included 680 outpatient KTR with a functional graft ≥1 year and 193 healthy controls. Plasma VLSFA (arachidonic acid (C20:0), behenic acid (C22:0) and lignoceric acid (C24:0)) were measured by gas chromatography coupled with a flame ionization detector. Cox regression analyses was used to prospectively study the associations of VLSFA with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. All studied VLSFA were significantly lower in KTR compared to healthy controls (all p < 0.001). During a median (interquartile range) follow-up of 5.6 (5.2–6.3) years, 146 (21%) KTR died, of which 41 (28%) died due to infectious diseases. In KTR, C22:0 was inversely associated with risk of all-cause mortality, with a HR (95% CI) per 1-SD-increment of 0.79 (0.64–0.99), independent of adjustment for potential confounders. All studied VLSFA were particularly strongly associated with mortality from infectious causes, with respective HRs for C20:0, C22:0 and C24:0 of 0.53 (0.35–0.82), 0.48 (0.30–0.75), and 0.51 (0.33–0.80), independent of potential confounders. VLSFA are inversely associated with infectious disease mortality in KTR after adjustment, including HDL-cholesterol. Further studies are needed to assess the effect of VLSFA-containing foods on the risk of infectious diseases in immunocompromised patient groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3383
Number of pages14
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2021


  • Arachidic acid
  • Behenic acid
  • Epidemiology
  • Gas chromatography
  • Infection
  • Kidney transplantation
  • Lignoceric acid
  • Sphingolipids
  • Very long chain saturated fatty acids

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