Metabolomic Profiling of the Effects of Dapagliflozin in Heart Failure with Reduced Ejection Fraction: DEFINE-HF

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Background: Sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitors (SGLT2i) are foundational therapy in patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), yet underlying mechanisms of benefit are not well defined. We sought to investigate the relationships between SGLT2i treatment, changes in metabolic pathways, and outcomes using targeted metabolomics.

Methods: Dapagliflozin Effects on Biomarkers, Symptoms and Functional Status in Patients with HF with Reduced Ejection Fraction (DEFINE-HF) was a placebo-controlled trial of dapagliflozin in HFrEF. We performed targeted mass spectrometry-based profiling of 63 metabolites (45 acylcarnitines [markers of fatty acid oxidation], 15 amino acids, and 3 conventional metabolites) in plasma samples at randomization and 12 weeks. Using mixed models, we identified principal components analysis (PCA)-defined metabolite clusters that changed differentially with treatment, and also examined the relationship between change in metabolite clusters with change in Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire (KCCQ) Scores and N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP). Models were adjusted for relevant clinical covariates, and nominal p<0.05 with FDR-adjusted p-value<0.10 were used to determine statistical significance.

Results: Among the 234 DEFINE-HF participants with targeted metabolomic data, the mean age was 62.0±11.1 years, 25% were women, 38% were Black, and mean ejection fraction was 27±8%. Dapagliflozin increased ketone-related and short/medium-chain acylcarnitine PCA metabolite clusters compared with placebo (nominal p=0.01, FDR-adjusted p-value=0.08 for both clusters). However, ketosis (Β-hydroxybutyrate levels > 500 μM), was infrequently achieved (3 [2.5%] in dapagliflozin arm vs. 1 [0.9%] in placebo arm), and supraphysiologic levels were not observed. Conversely, increases in long-chain acylcarnitine, long-chain dicarboxylacylcarnitine, and aromatic amino acid metabolite clusters were associated with decreases in KCCQ scores (i.e. worse quality of life) and increases in NT-proBNP levels, without interaction by treatment group.

Conclusions: In this study of targeted metabolomics in a placebo-controlled trial of SGLT2i in HFrEF, we observed effects of dapagliflozin on key metabolic pathways, supporting a role for altered ketone and fatty acid biology with SGLT2i in patients with HFrEF. Reassuringly, only physiologic levels of ketosis were observed. Additionally, we identified several metabolic biomarkers associated with adverse HFrEF outcomes.

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ePub ahead of print