Lipidomics: Approaches and applications in nutrition research

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“Lipids” is the material extracted from an aqueous tissue homogenate using an organic solvent. Depending on the solvent used, the organic phase will contain a host of lipid subclasses, some neutral, some charged, some more, and some less polar. In the “olden days” researchers tried to selectively extract and study each lipid class by itself and resolve as many “contaminants” as possible. Nowadays, the goal is to include as many lipid classes in the analysis as feasible, if not all: “Lipidomics” in a simple definition is the approach to quantify all lipids present in a confined biological entity. This can be an entire organ, a plasma sample, or a plate of cultured cells. This issue of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research provides an up-to-date overview of approaches and applications of lipidomics in nutrition research.

We start out with three reviews that introduce the field. Hyötyläinen et al. give a general overview on technical aspects and the application of lipidomics in diet and nutrition research, Smilowitz et al. discuss nutritional lipidomics highlighting the physiological roles of the diverse lipid classes and translational aspects, and Murphy and Nicolaou present a comprehensive overview on MS techniques used in

lipidomics analyses and their application in the analysis of tissue samples and in food technology.

“…“Lipidomics” in a simple definition is the approach to quantify all lipids present in a confined biological entity…”

When thinking about the role of lipids, especially with regard to their role as signaling molecules it quickly becomes obvious that it is the change in the lipid content over time that is equally, if not more informative than the knowledge of the exact composition of the lipid inventory. Approaches toward “fluxolipidomics” of eicosanoids are discussed by Lagarde et al.

Is a plate of cells grown in culture a good model? This depends, of course, on the question one is trying to address, and many will argue the knowledge that can be gleaned from a single cell in a culture dish is limited. Lamaziere et al. are asking an equally important – but less widely recognized – question: Does the limited supply of essential fatty acids in cell culture medium unduly affect the outcome of studies on lipogenesis and lipid metabolism? – This problem is addressed using a lipidomics analysis of fatty acid profiles in human tissue and cell culture samples.

The biological roles and LC-MS based analysis of lipid subfamilies like sphingolipids, glycerolipids, oxylipins, endocannabinoids, and N-acylethanolamines are the subject of a detailed article by Balgoma et al. From the same group follows a research study describing lipid mediator serum profiles in asthmatic patients (Lundstrom et al.). A double-blind cross-over study tested the effect of supplementation with fish oil and found significant alterations in cytochrome P450 and 15-lipoxygenase dependent oxylipins formed from DHA and EPA, respectively.

Within the large and diverse group of eicosanoids and oxylipins, Maskrey et al. present an in-depth review of specialized pro-resolving mediators formed from EPA and DHA by cross-over of two lipoxygenase pathways. The so-called resolvins, protectins, and maresins are endogenous lipid regulators of the inflammatory response, having highly potent anti-inflammatory and pro-resolving biological activities. The final article

by Tyurina et al. presents a study of oxidation of cardiolipin (a central player in apoptosis) in human lymphocytes with implications for the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in neurodegenerative disease. (Research in Dr. Schneider's lab is funded by awards

GM076592, CA159382, and AT006896 by the National Institutes of Health.)


Claus Schneider

Department of Pharmacology

Vanderbilt University Medical School

Nashville, TN, USA