Plasma metabolome and cytokine profile reveal glycylproline modulating antibody fading in convalescent COVID-19 patients

Zhu Yang, Di Wu, Shanxin Lu, Yang Qiu, Zhengyi Hua, Fancheng Tan, Cixiong Zhang, Lei Zhang, Ding Yu Zhang, Xi Zhou*, Zongwei Cai*, You Shang*, Shu Hai Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic has incurred tremendous costs worldwide and is still threatening public health in the “new normal.” The association between neutralizing antibody levels and metabolic alterations in convalescent patients with COVID-19 is still poorly understood. In the present work, we conducted absolutely quantitative profiling to compare the plasma cytokines and metabolome of ordinary convalescent patients with antibodies (CA), convalescents with rapidly faded antibodies (CO), and healthy subjects. As a result, we identified that cytokines such as M-CSF and IL-12p40 and plasma metabolites such as glycylproline (gly-pro) and long-chain acylcarnitines could be associated with antibody fading in COVID-19 convalescent patients. Following feature selection, we built machine-learning–based classification models using 17 features (six cytokines and 11 metabolites). Overall accuracies of more than 90% were attained in at least six machine-learning models. Of note, the dipeptide gly-pro, a product of enzymatic peptide cleavage catalyzed by dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4), strongly accumulated in CO individuals compared with the CA group. Furthermore, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccination experiments in healthy mice demonstrated that supplementation of gly-pro down-regulates SARS-CoV-2–specific receptor-binding domain antibody levels and suppresses immune responses, whereas the DPP4 inhibitor sitagliptin can counteract the inhibitory effects of gly-pro upon SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. Our findings not only reveal the important role of gly-pro in the immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection but also indicate a possible mechanism underlying the beneficial outcomes of treatment with DPP4 inhibitors in convalescent COVID-19 patients, shedding light on therapeutic and vaccination strategies against COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2117089119
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • General

User-Defined Keywords

  • Metabolomics
  • Cytokine Profiling
  • Convalescent Covid-19 Patients
  • Glycylproline
  • Sars-Cov-2


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