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1.  The Link Between Nutritional Status and Insulin Sensitivity Is Dependent on the Adipocyte-Specific Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptor-γ2 Isoform 
Diabetes  2005;54(6):1706-1716.
The nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) is critically required for adipogenesis. PPARγ exists as two isoforms, γ1 and γ2. PPARγ2 is the more potent adipogenic isoform in vitro and is normally restricted to adipose tissues, where it is regulated more by nutritional state than PPARγ1. To elucidate the relevance of the PPARγ2 in vivo, we generated a mouse model in which the PPARγ2 isoform was specifically disrupted. Despite similar weight, body composition, food intake, energy expenditure, and adipose tissue morphology, male mice lacking the γ2 isoform were more insulin resistant than wild-type animals when fed a regular diet. These results indicate that insulin resistance associated with ablation of PPARγ2 is not the result of lipodystrophy and suggests a specific role for PPARγ2 in maintaining insulin sensitivity independently of its effects on adipogenesis. Furthermore, PPARγ2 knockout mice fed a high-fat diet did not become more insulin resistant than those on a normal diet, despite a marked increase in their mean adipocyte cell size. These findings suggest that PPARγ2 is required for the maintenance of normal insulin sensitivity in mice but also raises the intriguing notion that PPARγ2 may be necessary for the adverse effects of a high-fat diet on carbohydrate metabolism.
PMCID: PMC4304004  PMID: 15919792
2.  Secreted frizzled-related protein 1 regulates adipose tissue expansion and is dysregulated in severe obesity 
The Wnt/β-catenin signalling network offers potential targets to diagnose and uncouple obesity from its metabolic complications. Here we investigate the role of the Wnt antagonist, secreted Frizzled related protein 1 (SFRP1) in promoting adipogenesis in vitro and adipose tissue expansion in vivo.
We use a combination of human and murine, in vivo and in vitro models of adipogenesis, adipose tissue expansion and obesity-related metabolic syndrome to profile the involvement of SFRP1.
Secreted Frizzled related protein 1 (SFRP1) is expressed in both murine and human mature adipocytes. The expression of SFRP1 is induced during in vitro adipogenesis and SFRP1 is preferentially expressed in mature adipocytes in human adipose tissue. Constitutive ectopic expression of SFRP1 is proadipogenic and inhibits the Wnt/β-catenin signalling pathway. In vivo endogenous levels of adipose SFRP1 are regulated in line with proadipogenic states. However, in longitudinal studies of high fat diet-fed mice we observed a dynamic temporal but biphasic regulation of endogenous SFRP1. In agreement with this profile we observed that SFRP1 expression in human tissues peaks in patients with mild obesity and gradually falls in morbidly obese subjects.
Our results suggest that SFRP1 is an endogenous modulator of Wnt/β-catenin signalling and participates in the paracrine regulation of human adipogenesis. The reduced adipose expression of SFRP1 in morbid obesity and its knock-on effect to prevent further adipose tissue expansion may contribute to the development of metabolic complications in these individuals.
PMCID: PMC4266104  PMID: 20514047
Obesity; Metabolic syndrome; Adipose tissue; Adipogenesis; Wnt Signalling
3.  The Gut Microbiota Modulates Glycaemic Control and Serum Metabolite Profiles in Non-Obese Diabetic Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e110359.
Islet autoimmunity in children who later progress to type 1 diabetes is preceded by dysregulated serum metabolite profiles, but the origin of these metabolic changes is unknown. The gut microbiota affects host metabolism and changes in its composition contribute to several immune-mediated diseases; however, it is not known whether the gut microbiota is involved in the early metabolic disturbances in progression to type 1 diabetes. We rederived non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice as germ free to explore the potential role of the gut microbiota in the development of diabetic autoimmunity and to directly investigate whether the metabolic profiles associated with the development of type 1 diabetes can be modulated by the gut microbiota. The absence of a gut microbiota in NOD mice did not affect the overall diabetes incidence but resulted in increased insulitis and levels of interferon gamma and interleukin 12; these changes were counterbalanced by improved peripheral glucose metabolism. Furthermore, we observed a markedly increased variation in blood glucose levels in the absence of a microbiota in NOD mice that did not progress to diabetes. Additionally, germ-free NOD mice had a metabolite profile similar to that of pre-diabetic children. Our data suggest that germ-free NOD mice have reduced glycaemic control and dysregulated immunologic and metabolic responses.
PMCID: PMC4229081  PMID: 25390735
4.  Decreased Cord-Blood Phospholipids in Young Age–at–Onset Type 1 Diabetes 
Diabetes  2013;62(11):3951-3956.
Children developing type 1 diabetes may have risk markers already in their umbilical cord blood. It is hypothesized that the risk for type 1 diabetes at an early age may be increased by a pathogenic pregnancy and be reflected in altered cord-blood composition. This study used metabolomics to test if the cord-blood lipidome was affected in children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before 8 years of age. The present case-control study of 76 index children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before 8 years of age and 76 healthy control subjects matched for HLA risk, sex, and date of birth, as well as the mother’s age and gestational age, revealed that cord-blood phosphatidylcholines and phosphatidylethanolamines were significantly decreased in children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before 4 years of age. Reduced levels of triglycerides correlated to gestational age in index and control children and to age at diagnosis only in the index children. Finally, gestational infection during the first trimester was associated with lower cord-blood total lysophosphatidylcholines in index and control children. In conclusion, metabolomics of umbilical cord blood may identify children at increased risk for type 1 diabetes. Low phospholipid levels at birth may represent key mediators of the immune system and contribute to early induction of islet autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3806611  PMID: 23929934
5.  Cord Serum Lipidome in Prediction of Islet Autoimmunity and Type 1 Diabetes 
Diabetes  2013;62(9):3268-3274.
Previous studies show that children who later progress to type 1 diabetes (T1D) have decreased preautoimmune concentrations of multiple phospholipids as compared with nonprogressors. It is still unclear whether these changes associate with development of β-cell autoimmunity or specifically with clinical T1D. Here, we studied umbilical cord serum lipidome in infants who later developed T1D (N = 33); infants who developed three or four (N = 31) islet autoantibodies, two (N = 31) islet autoantibodies, or one (N = 48) islet autoantibody during the follow-up; and controls (N = 143) matched for sex, HLA-DQB1 genotype, city of birth, and period of birth. The analyses of serum molecular lipids were performed using the established lipidomics platform based on ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. We found that T1D progressors are characterized by a distinct cord blood lipidomic profile that includes reduced major choline-containing phospholipids, including sphingomyelins and phosphatidylcholines. A molecular signature was developed comprising seven lipids that predicted high risk for progression to T1D with an odds ratio of 5.94 (95% CI, 1.07–17.50). Reduction in choline-containing phospholipids in cord blood therefore is specifically associated with progression to T1D but not with development of β-cell autoimmunity in general.
PMCID: PMC3749353  PMID: 23630305
6.  The PredictAD project: development of novel biomarkers and analysis software for early diagnosis of the Alzheimer's disease 
Interface Focus  2013;3(2):20120072.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia affecting 36 million people worldwide. As the demographic transition in the developed countries progresses towards older population, the worsening ratio of workers per retirees and the growing number of patients with age-related illnesses such as AD will challenge the current healthcare systems and national economies. For these reasons AD has been identified as a health priority, and various methods for diagnosis and many candidates for therapies are under intense research. Even though there is currently no cure for AD, its effects can be managed. Today the significance of early and precise diagnosis of AD is emphasized in order to minimize its irreversible effects on the nervous system. When new drugs and therapies enter the market it is also vital to effectively identify the right candidates to benefit from these. The main objective of the PredictAD project was to find and integrate efficient biomarkers from heterogeneous patient data to make early diagnosis and to monitor the progress of AD in a more efficient, reliable and objective manner. The project focused on discovering biomarkers from biomolecular data, electrophysiological measurements of the brain and structural, functional and molecular brain images. We also designed and built a statistical model and a framework for exploiting these biomarkers with other available patient history and background data. We were able to discover several potential novel biomarker candidates and implement the framework in software. The results are currently used in several research projects, licensed to commercial use and being tested for clinical use in several trials.
PMCID: PMC3638476  PMID: 24427524
Alzheimer's disease; early diagnosis; clinical decision support systems
7.  Effects of Whole Grain, Fish and Bilberries on Serum Metabolic Profile and Lipid Transfer Protein Activities: A Randomized Trial (Sysdimet) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90352.
We studied the combined effects of wholegrain, fish and bilberries on serum metabolic profile and lipid transfer protein activities in subjects with the metabolic syndrome.
Altogether 131 subjects (40–70 y, BMI 26–39 kg/m2) with impaired glucose metabolism and features of the metabolic syndrome were randomized into three groups with 12-week periods according to a parallel study design. They consumed either: a) wholegrain and low postprandial insulin response grain products, fatty fish 3 times a week, and bilberries 3 portions per day (HealthyDiet), b) wholegrain and low postprandial insulin response grain products (WGED), or c) refined wheat breads as cereal products (Control). Altogether 106 subjects completed the study. Serum metabolic profile was studied using an NMR-based platform providing information on lipoprotein subclasses and lipids as well as low-molecular-weight metabolites.
There were no significant differences in clinical characteristics between the groups at baseline or at the end of the intervention. Mixed model analyses revealed significant changes in lipid metabolites in the HealthyDiet group during the intervention compared to the Control group. All changes reflected increased polyunsaturation in plasma fatty acids, especially in n-3 PUFAs, while n-6 and n-7 fatty acids decreased. According to tertiles of changes in fish intake, a greater increase of fish intake was associated with increased concentration of large HDL particles, larger average diameter of HDL particles, and increased concentrations of large HDL lipid components, even though total levels of HDL cholesterol remained stable.
The results suggest that consumption of diet rich in whole grain, bilberries and especially fatty fish causes changes in HDL particles shifting their subclass distribution toward larger particles. These changes may be related to known protective functions of HDL such as reverse cholesterol transport and could partly explain the known protective effects of fish consumption against atherosclerosis.
Trial Registration
The study was registered at NCT00573781.
PMCID: PMC3938672  PMID: 24587337
8.  Integration of transcription and flux data reveals molecular paths associated with differences in oxygen-dependent phenotypes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
BMC Systems Biology  2014;8:16.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is able to adapt to a wide range of external oxygen conditions. Previously, oxygen-dependent phenotypes have been studied individually at the transcriptional, metabolite, and flux level. However, the regulation of cell phenotype occurs across the different levels of cell function. Integrative analysis of data from multiple levels of cell function in the context of a network of several known biochemical interaction types could enable identification of active regulatory paths not limited to a single level of cell function.
The graph theoretical method called Enriched Molecular Path detection (EMPath) was extended to enable integrative utilization of transcription and flux data. The utility of the method was demonstrated by detecting paths associated with phenotype differences of S. cerevisiae under three different conditions of oxygen provision: 20.9%, 2.8% and 0.5%. The detection of molecular paths was performed in an integrated genome-scale metabolic and protein-protein interaction network.
The molecular paths associated with the phenotype differences of S. cerevisiae under conditions of different oxygen provisions revealed paths of molecular interactions that could potentially mediate information transfer between processes that respond to the particular oxygen availabilities.
PMCID: PMC3930817  PMID: 24528924
Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Network biology; Molecular path finding; Data integration; Oxygen; Constraint-based modeling
9.  Prediction of non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease and liver fat content by serum molecular lipids 
Diabetologia  2013;56(10):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
10.  Metabolomics of human breast cancer: new approaches for tumor typing and biomarker discovery 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(4):37.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and the development of new technologies for better understanding of the molecular changes involved in breast cancer progression is essential. Metabolic changes precede overt phenotypic changes, because cellular regulation ultimately affects the use of small-molecule substrates for cell division, growth or environmental changes such as hypoxia. Differences in metabolism between normal cells and cancer cells have been identified. Because small alterations in enzyme concentrations or activities can cause large changes in overall metabolite levels, the metabolome can be regarded as the amplified output of a biological system. The metabolome coverage in human breast cancer tissues can be maximized by combining different technologies for metabolic profiling. Researchers are investigating alterations in the steady state concentrations of metabolites that reflect amplified changes in genetic control of metabolism. Metabolomic results can be used to classify breast cancer on the basis of tumor biology, to identify new prognostic and predictive markers and to discover new targets for future therapeutic interventions. Here, we examine recent results, including those from the European FP7 project METAcancer consortium, that show that integrated metabolomic analyses can provide information on the stage, subtype and grade of breast tumors and give mechanistic insights. We predict an intensified use of metabolomic screens in clinical and preclinical studies focusing on the onset and progression of tumor development.
PMCID: PMC3446265  PMID: 22546809
breast cancer; metabolomics; lipidomics; biomarker analysis
11.  Mondo/ChREBP-Mlx-Regulated Transcriptional Network Is Essential for Dietary Sugar Tolerance in Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(4):e1003438.
Sugars are important nutrients for many animals, but are also proposed to contribute to overnutrition-derived metabolic diseases in humans. Understanding the genetic factors governing dietary sugar tolerance therefore has profound biological and medical significance. Paralogous Mondo transcription factors ChREBP and MondoA, with their common binding partner Mlx, are key sensors of intracellular glucose flux in mammals. Here we report analysis of the in vivo function of Drosophila melanogaster Mlx and its binding partner Mondo (ChREBP) in respect to tolerance to dietary sugars. Larvae lacking mlx or having reduced mondo expression show strikingly reduced survival on a diet with moderate or high levels of sucrose, glucose, and fructose. mlx null mutants display widespread changes in lipid and phospholipid profiles, signs of amino acid catabolism, as well as strongly elevated circulating glucose levels. Systematic loss-of-function analysis of Mlx target genes reveals that circulating glucose levels and dietary sugar tolerance can be genetically uncoupled: Krüppel-like transcription factor Cabut and carbonyl detoxifying enzyme Aldehyde dehydrogenase type III are essential for dietary sugar tolerance, but display no influence on circulating glucose levels. On the other hand, Phosphofructokinase 2, a regulator of the glycolysis pathway, is needed for both dietary sugar tolerance and maintenance of circulating glucose homeostasis. Furthermore, we show evidence that fatty acid synthesis, which is a highly conserved Mondo-Mlx-regulated process, does not promote dietary sugar tolerance. In contrast, survival of larvae with reduced fatty acid synthase expression is sugar-dependent. Our data demonstrate that the transcriptional network regulated by Mondo-Mlx is a critical determinant of the healthful dietary spectrum allowing Drosophila to exploit sugar-rich nutrient sources.
Author Summary
Diet displays extreme natural variation between animal species, which range from highly specialized carnivores, herbivores, and nectarivores to flexible dietary generalists. Humans are not identical in this respect either, but the genetic background likely defines the framework for a healthy diet. However, we understand poorly the genetic factors that define the spectrum of healthy diet for a given species or individual. Here we have explored the genetic basis of dietary sugar tolerance of Drosophila melanogaster. D. melanogaster is a generalist fruit breeder that feeds on micro-organisms on decaying fruits and vegetables with varying sugar content. However, mutants lacking the conserved Mondo-Mlx transcription factor complex display striking intolerance towards dietary sucrose, glucose, or fructose. This is manifested in the larvae by the inability to grow and pupate on sugar-rich food, including red grape, which belongs to the normal diet of wild D. melanogaster. Larvae lacking Mondo-Mlx show widespread metabolic imbalance, including highly elevated circulating glucose. Genome-wide gene expression analysis combined with systematic loss-of-function screening of Mlx targets reveal that the genetic network providing sugar tolerance includes a secondary transcriptional effector as well as regulators of glycolysis and detoxification of reactive metabolites.
PMCID: PMC3616910  PMID: 23593032
12.  Associations between the human intestinal microbiota, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and serum lipids indicated by integrated analysis of high-throughput profiling data 
PeerJ  2013;1:e32.
Accumulating evidence indicates that the intestinal microbiota regulates our physiology and metabolism. Bacteria marketed as probiotics confer health benefits that may arise from their ability to affect the microbiota. Here high-throughput screening of the intestinal microbiota was carried out and integrated with serum lipidomic profiling data to study the impact of probiotic intervention on the intestinal ecosystem, and to explore the associations between the intestinal bacteria and serum lipids. We performed a comprehensive intestinal microbiota analysis using a phylogenetic microarray before and after Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG intervention. While a specific increase in the L. rhamnosus-related bacteria was observed during the intervention, no other changes in the composition or stability of the microbiota were detected. After the intervention, lactobacilli returned to their initial levels. As previously reported, also the serum lipid profiles remained unaltered during the intervention. Based on a high-resolution microbiota analysis, intake of L. rhamnosus GG did not modify the composition of the intestinal ecosystem in healthy adults, indicating that probiotics confer their health effects by other mechanisms. The most prevailing association between the gut microbiota and lipid profiles was a strong positive correlation between uncultured phylotypes of Ruminococcus gnavus-group and polyunsaturated serum triglycerides of dietary origin. Moreover, a positive correlation was detected between serum cholesterol and Collinsella (Coriobacteriaceae). These associations identified with the spectrometric lipidome profiling were corroborated by enzymatically determined cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Actinomycetaceae correlated negatively with triglycerides of highly unsaturated fatty acids while a set of Proteobacteria showed negative correlation with ether phosphatidylcholines. Our results suggest that several members of the Firmicutes, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria may be involved in the metabolism of dietary and endogenous lipids, and provide a scientific rationale for further human studies to explore the role of intestinal microbes in host lipid metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3628737  PMID: 23638368
Microbiota; Lipidomics; Probiotics; Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG; Gastrointestinal tract; Physiology; High-throughput profiling
13.  Integrated Model of Metabolism and Autoimmune Response in β-Cell Death and Progression to Type 1 Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51909.
Progression to type 1 diabetes is characterized by complex interactions of environmental, metabolic and immune system factors, involving both degenerative pathways leading to loss of pancreatic β-cells as well as protective pathways. The interplay between the degenerative and protective pathways may hold the key to disease outcomes, but no models have so far captured the two together. Here we propose a mathematical framework, an ordinary differential equation (ODE) model, which integrates metabolism and the immune system in early stages of disease process. We hypothesize that depending on the degree of regulation, autoimmunity may also play a protective role in the initial response to stressors. We assume that β-cell destruction follows two paths of loss: degenerative and autoimmune-induced loss. The two paths are mutually competing, leading to termination of the degenerative loss and further to elimination of the stress signal and the autoimmune response, and ultimately stopping the β-cell loss. The model describes well our observations from clinical and non-clinical studies and allows exploration of how the rate of β-cell loss depends on the amplitude and duration of autoimmune response.
PMCID: PMC3522595  PMID: 23251651
14.  Age- and Islet Autoimmunity–Associated Differences in Amino Acid and Lipid Metabolites in Children at Risk for Type 1 Diabetes 
Diabetes  2011;60(11):2740-2747.
Islet autoimmunity precedes type 1 diabetes and often initiates in childhood. Phenotypic variation in islet autoimmunity relative to the age of its development suggests heterogeneous mechanisms of autoimmune activation. To support this notion, we examined whether serum metabolite profiles differ between children with respect to islet autoantibody status and the age of islet autoantibody development.
The study analyzed 29 metabolites of amino acid metabolism and 511 lipids assigned to 12 lipid clusters in children, with a type 1 diabetic parent, who first developed autoantibodies at age 2 years or younger (n = 13), at age 8 years or older (n = 22), or remained autoantibody-negative, and were matched for age, date of birth, and HLA genotypes (n = 35). Ultraperformance liquid chromatography and mass spectroscopy were used to measure metabolites and lipids quantitatively in the first autoantibody-positive and matched autoantibody-negative serum samples and in a second sample after 1 year of follow-up.
Differences in the metabolite profiles were observed relative to age and islet autoantibody status. Independent of age-related differences, autoantibody-positive children had higher levels of odd-chain triglycerides and polyunsaturated fatty acid–containing phospholipids than autoantibody-negative children and independent of age at first autoantibody appearance (P < 0.0001). Consistent with our hypothesis, children who developed autoantibodies by age 2 years had twofold lower concentration of methionine compared with those who developed autoantibodies in late childhood or remained autoantibody-negative (P < 0.0001).
Distinct metabolic profiles are associated with age and islet autoimmunity. Pathways that use methionine are potentially relevant for developing islet autoantibodies in early infancy.
PMCID: PMC3198092  PMID: 22025777
15.  Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor γ-Dependent Regulation of Lipolytic Nodes and Metabolic Flexibility 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(8):1555-1565.
Optimal lipid storage and mobilization are essential for efficient adipose tissue. Nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) regulates adipocyte differentiation and lipid deposition, but its role in lipolysis and dysregulation in obesity is not well defined. This investigation aimed to understand the molecular impact of dysfunctional PPARγ on the lipolytic axis and to explore whether these defects are also confirmed in common forms of human obesity. For this purpose, we used the P465L PPARγ mouse as a model of dysfunctional PPARγ that recapitulates the human pparγ mutation (P467L). We demonstrated that defective PPARγ impairs catecholamine-induced lipolysis. This abnormal lipolytic response is exacerbated by a state of positive energy balance in leptin-deficient ob/ob mice. We identified the protein kinase A (PKA) network as a PPARγ-dependent regulatory node of the lipolytic response. Specifically, defective PPARγ is associated with decreased basal expression of prkaca (PKAcatα) and d-akap1, the lipase genes Pnplaz (ATGL) and Lipe (HSL), and lipid droplet protein genes fsp27 and adrp in vivo and in vitro. Our data indicate that PPARγ is required for activation of the lipolytic regulatory network, dysregulation of which is an important feature of obesity-induced insulin resistance in humans.
PMCID: PMC3318581  PMID: 22310664
16.  Expression of ceramide-metabolising enzymes in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal human adipose tissue 
Inflammation and increased ceramide concentrations characterise adipose tissue of obese women with high liver fat content compared to equally obese women with normal liver fat content. The present study characterises enzymes involved in ceramide metabolism in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal adipose tissue.
Pathways leading to increased ceramide concentrations in inflamed versus non-inflamed adipose tissue were investigated by quantifying expression levels of key enzymes involved in ceramide metabolism. Sphingomyelinases (sphingomyelin phosphodiesterases SMPD1-3) were investigated further using immunohistochemistry to establish their location within adipose tissue, and their mRNA expression levels were determined in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal adipose tissue from both non-obese and obese subject.
Gene expression levels of sphingomyelinases, enzymes that hydrolyse sphingomyelin to ceramide, rather than enzymes involved in de novo ceramide synthesis, were higher in inflamed compared to non-inflamed adipose tissue of obese women (with high and normal liver fat contents respectively). Sphingomyelinases were localised to both macrophages and adipocytes, but also to blood vessels and to extracellular regions surrounding vessels within adipose tissue. Expression levels of SMPD3 mRNA correlated significantly with concentrations of different ceramides and sphingomyelins. In both non-obese and obese subjects SMPD3 mRNA levels were higher in the more inflamed intra-abdominal compared to the subcutaneous adipose tissue depot.
Generation of ceramides within adipose tissue as a result of sphingomyelinase action may contribute to inflammation in human adipose tissue.
PMCID: PMC3478226  PMID: 22974251
Adipose tissue; Ceramide; Human; Inflammation; Sphingomyelinase
17.  Obesity and psychotic disorders: uncovering common mechanisms through metabolomics 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2012;5(5):614-620.
Primary obesity and psychotic disorders are similar with respect to the associated changes in energy balance and co-morbidities, including metabolic syndrome. Such similarities do not necessarily demonstrate causal links, but instead suggest that specific causes of and metabolic disturbances associated with obesity play a pathogenic role in the development of co-morbid disorders, potentially even before obesity develops. Metabolomics – the systematic study of metabolites, which are small molecules generated by the process of metabolism – has been important in elucidating the pathways underlying obesity-associated co-morbidities. This review covers how recent metabolomic studies have advanced biomarker discovery and the elucidation of mechanisms underlying obesity and its co-morbidities, with a specific focus on metabolic syndrome and psychotic disorders. The importance of identifying metabolic markers of disease-associated intermediate phenotypes – traits modulated but not encoded by the DNA sequence – is emphasized. Such markers would be applicable as diagnostic tools in a personalized healthcare setting and might also open up novel therapeutic avenues.
PMCID: PMC3424458  PMID: 22915023
18.  Accelerated renal disease is associated with the development of metabolic syndrome in a glucolipotoxic mouse model 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2012;5(5):636-648.
Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at high risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) through unclear pathogenic mechanisms. Obesity and diabetes are known to induce glucolipotoxic effects in metabolically relevant organs. However, the pathogenic role of glucolipotoxicity in the aetiology of diabetic nephropathy is debated. We generated a murine model, the POKO mouse, obtained by crossing the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma 2 (PPARγ2) knockout (KO) mouse into a genetically obese ob/ob background. We have previously shown that the POKO mice showed: hyperphagia, insulin resistance, hyperglycaemia and dyslipidaemia as early as 4 weeks of age, and developed a complete loss of normal β-cell function by 16 weeks of age. Metabolic phenotyping of the POKO model has led to investigation of the structural and functional changes in the kidney and changes in blood pressure in these mice. Here we demonstrate that the POKO mouse is a model of renal disease that is accelerated by high levels of glucose and lipid accumulation. Similar to ob/ob mice, at 4 weeks of age these animals exhibited an increased urinary albumin:creatinine ratio and significantly increased blood pressure, but in contrast showed a significant increase in the renal hypertrophy index and an associated increase in p27Kip1 expression compared with their obese littermates. Moreover, at 4 weeks of age POKO mice showed insulin resistance, an alteration of lipid metabolism and glomeruli damage associated with increased transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) and parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) expression. At this age, levels of proinflammatory molecules, such as monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), and fibrotic factors were also increased at the glomerular level compared with levels in ob/ob mice. At 12 weeks of age, renal damage was fully established. These data suggest an accelerated lesion through glucolipotoxic effects in the renal pathogenesis in POKO mice.
PMCID: PMC3424461  PMID: 22773754
19.  Fish Oil Supplementation Alters the Plasma Lipidomic Profile and Increases Long-Chain PUFAs of Phospholipids and Triglycerides in Healthy Subjects 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42550.
While beneficial health effects of fish and fish oil consumption are well documented, the incorporation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in plasma lipid classes is not completely understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of fish oil supplementation on the plasma lipidomic profile in healthy subjects.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In a double-blinded randomized controlled parallel-group study, healthy subjects received capsules containing either 8 g/d of fish oil (FO) (1.6 g/d EPA+DHA) (n = 16) or 8 g/d of high oleic sunflower oil (HOSO) (n = 17) for seven weeks. During the first three weeks of intervention, the subjects completed a fully controlled diet period. BMI and total serum triglycerides, total-, LDL- and HDL-cholesterol were unchanged during the intervention period. Lipidomic analyses were performed using Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC) coupled to electrospray ionization quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (QTOFMS), where 568 lipids were detected and 260 identified. Both t-tests and Multi-Block Partial Least Square Regression (MBPLSR) analysis were performed for analysing differences between the intervention groups. The intervention groups were well separated by the lipidomic data after three weeks of intervention. Several lipid classes such as phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, lysophosphatidylcholine, sphingomyelin, phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylglycerol, and triglycerides contributed strongly to this separation. Twenty-three lipids were significantly decreased (FDR<0.05) in the FO group after three weeks compared with the HOSO group, whereas fifty-one were increased including selected phospholipids and triglycerides of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. After seven weeks of intervention the two intervention groups showed similar grouping.
In healthy subjects, fish oil supplementation alters lipid metabolism and increases the proportion of phospholipids and triglycerides containing long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Whether the beneficial effects of fish oil supplementation may be explained by a remodeling of the plasma lipids into phospholipids and triglycerides of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids needs to be further investigated.
Trial Registration NCT01034423
PMCID: PMC3429454  PMID: 22952598
20.  Remodeling of central metabolism in invasive breast cancer compared to normal breast tissue – a GC-TOFMS based metabolomics study 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:334.
Changes in energy metabolism of the cells are common to many kinds of tumors and are considered a hallmark of cancer. Gas chromatography followed by time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOFMS) is a well-suited technique to investigate the small molecules in the central metabolic pathways. However, the metabolic changes between invasive carcinoma and normal breast tissues were not investigated in a large cohort of breast cancer samples so far.
A cohort of 271 breast cancer and 98 normal tissue samples was investigated using GC-TOFMS-based metabolomics. A total number of 468 metabolite peaks could be detected; out of these 368 (79%) were significantly changed between cancer and normal tissues (p<0.05 in training and validation set). Furthermore, 13 tumor and 7 normal tissue markers were identified that separated cancer from normal tissues with a sensitivity and a specificity of >80%. Two-metabolite classifiers, constructed as ratios of the tumor and normal tissues markers, separated cancer from normal tissues with high sensitivity and specificity. Specifically, the cytidine-5-monophosphate / pentadecanoic acid metabolic ratio was the most significant discriminator between cancer and normal tissues and allowed detection of cancer with a sensitivity of 94.8% and a specificity of 93.9%.
For the first time, a comprehensive metabolic map of breast cancer was constructed by GC-TOF analysis of a large cohort of breast cancer and normal tissues. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that spectrometry-based approaches have the potential to contribute to the analysis of biopsies or clinical tissue samples complementary to histopathology.
PMCID: PMC3430598  PMID: 22823888
Breast cancer; Metabolomics; Gas chromatography; Mass spectrometry; Cancer detection
21.  Lipocalin Prostaglandin D Synthase and PPARγ2 Coordinate to Regulate Carbohydrate and Lipid Metabolism In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39512.
Mice lacking Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor γ2 (PPARγ2) have unexpectedly normal glucose tolerance and mild insulin resistance. Mice lacking PPARγ2 were found to have elevated levels of Lipocalin prostaglandin D synthase (L-PGDS) expression in BAT and subcutaneous white adipose tissue (WAT). To determine if induction of L-PGDS was compensating for a lack of PPARγ2, we crossed L-PGDS KO mice to PPARγ2 KO mice to generate Double Knock Out mice (DKO). Using DKO mice we demonstrated a requirement of L-PGDS for maintenance of subcutaneous WAT (scWAT) function. In scWAT, DKO mice had reduced expression of thermogenic genes, the de novo lipogenic program and the lipases ATGL and HSL. Despite the reduction in markers of lipolysis in scWAT, DKO mice had a normal metabolic rate and elevated serum FFA levels compared to L-PGDS KO alone. Analysis of intra-abdominal white adipose tissue (epididymal WAT) showed elevated expression of mRNA and protein markers of lipolysis in DKO mice, suggesting that DKO mice may become more reliant on intra-abdominal WAT to supply lipid for oxidation. This switch in depot utilisation from subcutaneous to epididymal white adipose tissue was associated with a worsening of whole organism metabolic function, with DKO mice being glucose intolerant, and having elevated serum triglyceride levels compared to any other genotype. Overall, L-PGDS and PPARγ2 coordinate to regulate carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3390315  PMID: 22792179
22.  Characterization of microbial metabolism of Syrah grape products in an in vitro colon model using targeted and non-targeted analytical approaches 
European Journal of Nutrition  2012;52(2):833-846.
Syrah red grapes are used in the production of tannin-rich red wines. Tannins are high molecular weight molecules, proanthocyanidins (PAs), and poorly absorbed in the upper intestine. In this study, gut microbial metabolism of Syrah grape phenolic compounds was investigated.
Syrah grape pericarp was subjected to an enzymatic in vitro digestion model, and red wine and grape skin PA fraction were prepared. Microbial conversion was screened using an in vitro colon model with faecal microbiota, by measurement of short-chain fatty acids by gas chromatography (GC) and microbial phenolic metabolites using GC with mass detection (GC–MS). Red wine metabolites were further profiled using two-dimensional GC mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOFMS). In addition, the effect of PA structure and dose on conversion efficiency was investigated by GC–MS.
Red wine exhibited a higher degree of C1–C3 phenolic acid formation than PA fraction or grape pericarp powders. Hydroxyphenyl valeric acid (flavanols and PAs as precursors) and 3,5-dimethoxy-4-hydroxybenzoic acid (anthocyanin as a precursor) were identified from the red wine metabolite profile. In the absence of native grape pericarp or red wine matrix, the isolated PAs were found to be effective in the dose-dependent inhibition of microbial conversions and short-chain fatty acid formation.
Metabolite profiling was complementary to targeted analysis. The identified metabolites had biological relevance, because the structures of the metabolites resembled fragments of their grape phenolic precursors or were in agreement with literature data.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0391-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3573183  PMID: 22699306
Syrah grape; Red wine; Proanthocyanidins; In vitro colon conversions; Phenolic compounds; Short-chain fatty acids; Metabolite profiling
23.  Differential Lipid Partitioning Between Adipocytes and Tissue Macrophages Modulates Macrophage Lipotoxicity and M2/M1 Polarization in Obese Mice 
Diabetes  2011;60(3):797-809.
Obesity-associated insulin resistance is characterized by a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation that is associated with the accumulation of M1 proinflammatory macrophages in adipose tissue. Although different evidence explains the mechanisms linking the expansion of adipose tissue and adipose tissue macrophage (ATM) polarization, in the current study we investigated the concept of lipid-induced toxicity as the pathogenic link that could explain the trigger of this response.
We addressed this question using isolated ATMs and adipocytes from genetic and diet-induced murine models of obesity. Through transcriptomic and lipidomic analysis, we created a model integrating transcript and lipid species networks simultaneously occurring in adipocytes and ATMs and their reversibility by thiazolidinedione treatment.
We show that polarization of ATMs is associated with lipid accumulation and the consequent formation of foam cell–like cells in adipose tissue. Our study reveals that early stages of adipose tissue expansion are characterized by M2-polarized ATMs and that progressive lipid accumulation within ATMs heralds the M1 polarization, a macrophage phenotype associated with severe obesity and insulin resistance. Furthermore, rosiglitazone treatment, which promotes redistribution of lipids toward adipocytes and extends the M2 ATM polarization state, prevents the lipid alterations associated with M1 ATM polarization.
Our data indicate that the M1 ATM polarization in obesity might be a macrophage-specific manifestation of a more general lipotoxic pathogenic mechanism. This indicates that strategies to optimize fat deposition and repartitioning toward adipocytes might improve insulin sensitivity by preventing ATM lipotoxicity and M1 polarization.
PMCID: PMC3046840  PMID: 21266330
24.  Insulin Signaling Regulates Fatty Acid Catabolism at the Level of CoA Activation 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(1):e1002478.
The insulin/IGF signaling pathway is a highly conserved regulator of metabolism in flies and mammals, regulating multiple physiological functions including lipid metabolism. Although insulin signaling is known to regulate the activity of a number of enzymes in metabolic pathways, a comprehensive understanding of how the insulin signaling pathway regulates metabolic pathways is still lacking. Accepted knowledge suggests the key regulated step in triglyceride (TAG) catabolism is the release of fatty acids from TAG via the action of lipases. We show here that an additional, important regulated step is the activation of fatty acids for beta-oxidation via Acyl Co-A synthetases (ACS). We identify pudgy as an ACS that is transcriptionally regulated by direct FOXO action in Drosophila. Increasing or reducing pudgy expression in vivo causes a decrease or increase in organismal TAG levels respectively, indicating that pudgy expression levels are important for proper lipid homeostasis. We show that multiple ACSs are also transcriptionally regulated by insulin signaling in mammalian cells. In sum, we identify fatty acid activation onto CoA as an important, regulated step in triglyceride catabolism, and we identify a mechanistic link through which insulin regulates lipid homeostasis.
Author Summary
Type 2 diabetes, which is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide, is often associated with obesity and an imbalance in organismal lipid homeostasis. Therefore, understanding how insulin regulates lipid biosynthesis and breakdown is necessary. Surprisingly, the molecular mechanisms by which insulin regulates fatty acid catabolism are not entirely understood. We show here that insulin signaling regulates expression of acyl-CoA Synthetases (ACS). ACSs couple fatty acids to Coenzyme A, thereby activating them for subsequent biochemical reactions. In Drosophila, we find that insulin signaling modulates expression of one ACS called Pudgy, which activates fatty acids for beta-oxidation. Modulation of pudgy expression leads to changes in overall organismal lipid homeostasis. Likewise, we show that in mammalian cells insulin signaling regulates expression of a number of ACSs and that ACS expression modulates steady-state lipid levels.
PMCID: PMC3261918  PMID: 22275878
25.  Phospholipids and insulin resistance in psychosis: a lipidomics study of twin pairs discordant for schizophrenia 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(1):1.
Several theories have been proposed to conceptualize the pathological processes inherent to schizophrenia. The 'prostaglandin deficiency' hypothesis postulates that defective enzyme systems converting essential fatty acids to prostaglandins lead to diminished levels of prostaglandins, which in turn affect synaptic transmission.
Here we sought to determine the lipidomic profiles associated with schizophrenia in twin pairs discordant for schizophrenia as well as unaffected twin pairs. The study included serum samples from 19 twin pairs discordant for schizophrenia (mean age 51 ± 10 years; 7 monozygotic pairs; 13 female pairs) and 34 age and gender matched healthy twins as controls. Neurocognitive assessment data and gray matter density measurements taken from high-resolution magnetic resonance images were also obtained. A lipidomics platform using ultra performance liquid chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry was applied for the analysis of serum samples.
In comparison to their healthy co-twins, the patients had elevated triglycerides and were more insulin resistant. They had diminished lysophosphatidylcholine levels, which associated with decreased cognitive speed.
Our findings may be of pathophysiological relevance since lysophosphatidylcholines, byproducts of phospholipase A2-catalyzed phospholipid hydrolysis, are preferred carriers of polyunsaturated fatty acids across the blood-brain barrier. Furthermore, diminishment of lysophosphatidylcholines suggests that subjects at risk of schizophrenia may be more susceptible to infections. Their association with cognitive speed supports the view that altered neurotransmission in schizophrenia may be in part mediated by reactive lipids such as prostaglandins.
PMCID: PMC3334549  PMID: 22257447

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