The pulmonary metatranscriptome prior to pediatric HCT identifies post-HCT lung injury

Matt S. Zinter, Caroline A. Lindemans, Birgitta A. Versluys, Madeline Y. Mayday, Sara Sunshine, Gustavo Reyes, Marina Sirota, Anil Sapru, Michael A. Matthay, Sandhya Kharbanda, Christopher C. Dvorak, Jaap J. Boelens, Joseph L. DeRisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Lung injury after pediatric allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) is a common and disastrous complication that threatens long-term survival. To develop strategies to prevent lung injury, novel tools are needed to comprehensively assess lung health in HCT candidates. Therefore, this study analyzed biospecimens from 181 pediatric HCT candidates who underwent routine pre-HCT bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) at the University Medical Center Utrecht between 2005 and 2016. BAL fluid underwent metatranscriptomic sequencing of microbial and human RNA, and unsupervised clustering and generalized linear models were used to associate microbiome gene expression data with the development of post-HCT lung injury. Microbe-gene correlations were validated using a geographically distinct cohort of 18 pediatric HCT candidates. The cumulative incidence of post-HCT lung injury varied significantly according to 4 pre-HCT pulmonary metatranscriptome clusters, with the highest incidence observed in children with pre-HCT viral enrichment and innate immune activation, as well as in children with profound microbial depletion and concomitant natural killer/T-cell activation (P <. 001). In contrast, children with pre-HCT pulmonary metatranscriptomes containing diverse oropharyngeal taxa and lacking inflammation rarely developed post-HCT lung injury. In addition, activation of epithelial-epidermal differentiation, mucus production, and cellular adhesion were associated with fatal post-HCT lung injury. In a separate validation cohort, associations among pulmonary respiratory viral load, oropharyngeal taxa, and pulmonary gene expression were recapitulated; the association with post-HCT lung injury needs to be validated in an independent cohort. This analysis suggests that assessment of the pre-HCT BAL fluid may identify high-risk pediatric HCT candidates who may benefit from pathobiology-targeted interventions. Key Points: • Pre-HCT pulmonary viral infection, microbiome depletion, lung inflammation, and epithelial injury identify post-HCT lung injury in children. • Strategies to optimize the pre-HCT pulmonary microbiome and mitigate pulmonary inflammation may improve the safety of pediatric HCT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1679-1689
Number of pages11
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021


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