Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Where the Fat’s At

In real estate, location is everything. The same might be said of lipids – those crucial cellular fats and oils that serve as building blocks for cells and as key energy sources for the body.

In a paper published in the September issue of the Journal of Lipid Research, a team of scientists, led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has mapped for the first time the actual locations of specific lipids within a single cell.

“This is groundbreaking analysis,” said Edward A. Dennis, PhD, distinguished professor of pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego and principal investigator of LIPID MAPS, a national consortium studying the structure and function of lipids. “We’ve defined not only which lipids are within a particular cell, but also where these lipids are located. That’s important because lipids do different things in a cell. They’re vital components of membranes. They’re involved in communications and signaling, both within cells and between cells. Where they are located – in a cell’s nucleus, its mitochondria, membrane or other organelle – is relevant to their function.”

And because most serious diseases are linked to specific organelle dysfunction, understanding what lipids do at the subcellular level is essential to elucidating how diseases ranging from atherosclerosis and arthritis to cancer and diabetes work – and how they might be better treated or prevented.

The focus of the lipid mapping was a cultured mouse macrophage or white blood cell, said Dennis, who also serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Lipid Research. Alexander Andreyev, PhD, a project scientist in the Dennis lab, extracted and separated organelles of the macrophage using advanced subcellular fractionation techniques. Scientists at collaborating universities then precisely identified and quantified the major lipid categories present with mass spectrometry. More than 220 individual molecular lipid species were identified and analyzed.

The analyses were conducted on macrophages in both resting and activated stages, the latter induced by exposing the cells to a specially synthesized chemical similar to a molecule found in bacteria pathogens. Called KLA, the chemical provokes a signaling cascade inside macrophages, activating their immune system response to infections.

“The idea was to see where targeted lipids were in macrophages at rest and how this changed upon infection,” said Dennis. “We discovered that numerous lipids change in abundance in the membrane and in organelles once a macrophage becomes active.”

Identifying these changes in specific lipids is expected to provide scientists with a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of how fats are involved in and influence disease processes, said Dennis.

“We’ve created a new picture of what’s happening in cells. Not an image, but a view at the molecular level where drugs interact and diseases are cured.”

The findings are part of the larger, on-going LIPID MAPS project, which received a second five-year renewal grant in 2008 for almost $38 million. The LIPID MAPS project is, in some ways, akin to the earlier Human Genome Project to inventory genes and similar endeavors with proteins (proteomics) and metabolites (metabolomics). It brings together researchers in a dozen research laboratories at nine universities, medical research institutes and life sciences companies. UC San Diego serves as lead institution and information clearinghouse.

“We’ve now identified many hundreds of lipids,” said Dennis, “but we have the capability of detecting many thousands. This has been a trail-blazing experiment. We can now go deeper into the cell.”

Co-authors of the study are Eoin Fahy, Xiang Li, Yihua Zhao and Shankar Subramaniam, San Diego Supercomputing Center, UC San Diego; Ziqiang Guan, Andrea Ryan and Christian R.H. Raetz, Department of Biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center; Samuel Kelly, Hyejung Park, Elaine Wang and Alfred Merrill, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology; Jeffrey G. McDonald, Bonne M. Thompson and David W. Russell, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; and Steven Milne, David Myers and H. Alex Brown, Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University.

Scott LaFee | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>