A comprehensive lipidomic screen of pancreatic β-cells using mass spectroscopy defines novel features of glucose-stimulated turnover of neutral lipids, sphingolipids and plasmalogens

Gemma L. Pearson, Natalie Mellett, Kwan Yi Chu, Ebru Boslem, Peter J. Meikle, Trevor J. Biden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Glucose promotes lipid remodelling in pancreatic β-cells, and this is thought to contribute to the regulation of insulin secretion, but the metabolic pathways and potential signalling intermediates have not been fully elaborated. Methods: Using mass spectrometry (MS) we quantified changes in approximately 300 lipid metabolites in MIN6 β-cells and isolated mouse islets following 1 h stimulation with glucose. Flux through sphingolipid pathways was also assessed in 3H-sphinganine-labelled cells using TLC. Results: Glucose specifically activates the conversion of triacylglycerol (TAG) to diacylglycerol (DAG). This leads indirectly to the formation of 18:1 monoacylglycerol (MAG), via degradation of saturated/monounsaturated DAG species, such as 16:0_18:1 DAG, which are the most abundant, immediate products of glucose-stimulated TAG hydrolysis. However, 16:0-containing, di-saturated DAG species are a better direct marker of TAG hydrolysis since, unlike the 18:1-containing DAGs, they are predominately formed via this route. Using multiple reaction monitoring, we confirmed that in islets under basal conditions, 18:1 MAG is the most abundant species. We further demonstrated a novel site of glucose to enhance the conversion of ceramide to sphingomyelin (SM) and galactosylceramide (GalCer). Flux and product:precursor analyses suggest regulation of the enzyme SM synthase, which would constitute a separate mechanism for localized generation of DAG in response to glucose. Phosphatidylcholine (PC) plasmalogen (P) species, specifically those containing 20:4, 22:5 and 22:6 side chains, were also diminished in the presence of glucose, whereas the more abundant phosphatidylethanolamine plasmalogens were unchanged. Conclusion: Our results highlight 18:1 MAG, GalCer, PC(P) and DAG/SM as potential contributors to metabolic stimulus-secretion coupling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-414
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Metabolism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Ceramide
  • Diacylglycerol
  • Insulin secretion
  • Monacylglycerol
  • Pancreatic β-cell
  • Plasmalogen

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