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1.  Prediction of non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease and liver fat content by serum molecular lipids 
Diabetologia  2013;56:2266-2274.
We examined whether analysis of lipids by ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to MS allows the development of a laboratory test for non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease (NAFLD), and how a lipid-profile biomarker compares with the prediction of NAFLD and liver-fat content based on routinely available clinical and laboratory data.
We analysed the concentrations of molecular lipids by UPLC-MS in blood samples of 679 well-characterised individuals in whom liver-fat content was measured using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) or liver biopsy. The participants were divided into biomarker-discovery (n = 287) and validation (n = 392) groups to build and validate the diagnostic models, respectively.
Individuals with NAFLD had increased triacylglycerols with low carbon number and double-bond content while lysophosphatidylcholines and ether phospholipids were diminished in those with NAFLD. A serum-lipid signature comprising three molecular lipids (‘lipid triplet’) was developed to estimate the percentage of liver fat. It had a sensitivity of 69.1% and specificity of 73.8% when applied for diagnosis of NAFLD in the validation series. The usefulness of the lipid triplet was demonstrated in a weight-loss intervention study.
The liver-fat-biomarker signature based on molecular lipids may provide a non-invasive tool to diagnose NAFLD, in addition to highlighting lipid molecular pathways involved in the disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00125-013-2981-2) contains peer-reviewed but unedited supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
PMCID: PMC3764317  PMID: 23824212
Lipidomics; Mass spectrometry; Non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease
2.  High Density Lipoprotein Structural Changes and Drug Response in Lipidomic Profiles following the Long-Term Fenofibrate Therapy in the FIELD Substudy 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23589.
In a recent FIELD study the fenofibrate therapy surprisingly failed to achieve significant benefit over placebo in the primary endpoint of coronary heart disease events. Increased levels of atherogenic homocysteine were observed in some patients assigned to fenofibrate therapy but the molecular mechanisms behind this are poorly understood. Herein we investigated HDL lipidomic profiles associated with fenofibrate treatment and the drug-induced Hcy levels in the FIELD substudy. We found that fenofibrate leads to complex HDL compositional changes including increased apoA-II, diminishment of lysophosphatidylcholines and increase of sphingomyelins. Ethanolamine plasmalogens were diminished only in a subgroup of fenofibrate-treated patients with elevated homocysteine levels. Finally we performed molecular dynamics simulations to qualitatively reconstitute HDL particles in silico. We found that increased number of apoA-II excludes neutral lipids from HDL surface and apoA-II is more deeply buried in the lipid matrix than apoA-I. In conclusion, a detailed molecular characterization of HDL may provide surrogates for predictors of drug response and thus help identify the patients who might benefit from fenofibrate treatment.
PMCID: PMC3160907  PMID: 21887280
3.  Association of Lipidome Remodeling in the Adipocyte Membrane with Acquired Obesity in Humans 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(6):e1000623.
The authors describe a new approach to studying cellular lipid profiles and propose a compensatory mechanism that may help maintain the normal membrane function of adipocytes in the context of obesity.
Identification of early mechanisms that may lead from obesity towards complications such as metabolic syndrome is of great interest. Here we performed lipidomic analyses of adipose tissue in twin pairs discordant for obesity but still metabolically compensated. In parallel we studied more evolved states of obesity by investigating a separated set of individuals considered to be morbidly obese. Despite lower dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid intake, the obese twin individuals had increased proportions of palmitoleic and arachidonic acids in their adipose tissue, including increased levels of ethanolamine plasmalogens containing arachidonic acid. Information gathered from these experimental groups was used for molecular dynamics simulations of lipid bilayers combined with dependency network analysis of combined clinical, lipidomics, and gene expression data. The simulations suggested that the observed lipid remodeling maintains the biophysical properties of lipid membranes, at the price, however, of increasing their vulnerability to inflammation. Conversely, in morbidly obese subjects, the proportion of plasmalogens containing arachidonic acid in the adipose tissue was markedly decreased. We also show by in vitro Elovl6 knockdown that the lipid network regulating the observed remodeling may be amenable to genetic modulation. Together, our novel approach suggests a physiological mechanism by which adaptation of adipocyte membranes to adipose tissue expansion associates with positive energy balance, potentially leading to higher vulnerability to inflammation in acquired obesity. Further studies will be needed to determine the cause of this effect.
Author Summary
Obesity is characterized by excess body fat, which is predominantly stored in the adipose tissue. When adipose tissue expands too much it stops storing lipid appropriately. The excess lipid accumulates in organs such as muscle, liver, and pancreas, causing metabolic disease. In this study, we aim to identify factors that cause adipose tissue to malfunction when it reaches its limit of expansion. We performed lipidomic analyses of human adipose tissue in twin pairs discordant for obesity—that is, one of the twins was lean and one was obese—but still metabolically healthy. We identified multiple changes in membrane phospholipids. Using computer modeling, we show that “lean” and “obese” membrane lipid compositions have the same physical properties despite their different compositions. We hypothesize that this represents allostasis—changes in lipid membrane composition in obesity occur to protect the physical properties of the membranes. However, protective changes cannot occur without a cost, and accordingly we demonstrate that switching to the “obese” lipid composition is associated with higher levels of adipose tissue inflammation. In a separate group of metabolically unhealthy obese individuals we investigated how the processes that regulate the “lean” and “obese” lipid profiles are changed. To determine how these lipid membrane changes are regulated we constructed an in silico network model that identified key control points and potential molecular players. We validated this network by performing genetic manipulations in cell models. Therapeutic targeting of this network may open new opportunities for the prevention or treatment of obesity-related metabolic complications.
PMCID: PMC3110175  PMID: 21666801

Results 1-3 (3)