The growing epidemic of obesity, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes requires new strategies for prevention and treatment. We recently discovered a structurally novel, bioactive family of lipids, branched Fatty Acid esters of Hydroxy Fatty Acids (FAHFAs), which are synthesized in vivo. A subclass of these, Palmitic Acid esters of Hydroxy Stearic Acid (PAHSAs), have anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects. In insulin-resistant people, PAHSA levels in serum and adipose tissue are reduced compared to insulin-sensitive people, and levels correlate highly with insulin sensitivity. In insulin-resistant mice, PAHSA administration lowers blood glucose, stimulates GLP-1 and insulin secretion, improves glucose tolerance and reduces pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in adipose tissue. In vitro, PAHSAs augment insulin-stimulated glucose transport in adipocytes and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from human pancreatic islets. There are 8 PAHSA isomers that differ by the position of the ester bond. PAHSA concentrations are regulated under physiologic (fasting) and pathophysiologic (high-fat diet) conditions in numerous tissues. The discovery of these novel lipids indicates the existence of unknown biochemical pathways for their synthesis and degradation. The overall goal of this proposal is to identify the enzymes that regulate the biosynthesis and degradation of PAHSAs, and to determine the relative importance of synthesis, degradation and secretion in controlling PAHSA levels in physiologic and pathophysiologic states. We have already made tremendous progress with the identification of the first PAHSA hydrolase; the development of a robust protocol that enables the biochemical purification of PAHSA biosynthetic enzymes from cells and tissues; and in vivo methods to measure PAHSA biosynthesis, degradation and secretion in awake mice. These studies will enable us to determine the relative contributions of these processes to PAHSA regulation and which mechanisms are responsible for lowering PAHSA levels in insulin-resistant states. In this application, we will integrate biochemistry, genomics, analytical chemistry and physiological experiments to identify, validate and characterize PAHSA regulatory enzymes, and to define the biochemical pathways that are responsible for controlling endogenous PAHSA levels. Because of the beneficial biologic effects of PAHSAs, these studies have the potential to reveal new targets to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes.

Public Health Relevance

We are in the midst of a growing epidemic of obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. There are few sustainable prevention strategies and not enough fully effective treatments for these serious disorders. Major gaps exist in our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, limiting our ability to develop highly effective and safe therapies. Attention has focused on understanding the problems with glucose or lipid metabolism separately but the mechanistic links between these pathways are poorly understood. We recently discovered a new class of lipids that have beneficial metabolic and anti-inflammatory effects. The levels of these lipids are low in people who are at risk for, or have, type 2 diabetes. Studies in this proposal will determine how levels o these beneficial lipids are regulated in normal physiologic states and in obesity and diabetes. Understanding the mechanisms regulating these lipids could provide new insights into the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and new treatment strategies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
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Integrative Physiology of Obesity and Diabetes Study Section (IPOD)
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Laughlin, Maren R
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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
United States
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Hammarstedt, Ann; Syed, Ismail; Vijayakumar, Archana et al. (2018) Adipose tissue dysfunction is associated with low levels of the novel Palmitic Acid Hydroxystearic Acids. Sci Rep 8:15757
Kolar, Matthew J; Nelson, Andrew T; Chang, Tina et al. (2018) Faster Protocol for Endogenous Fatty Acid Esters of Hydroxy Fatty Acid (FAHFA) Measurements. Anal Chem 90:5358-5365
Syed, Ismail; Lee, Jennifer; Moraes-Vieira, Pedro M et al. (2018) Palmitic Acid Hydroxystearic Acids Activate GPR40, Which Is Involved in Their Beneficial Effects on Glucose Homeostasis. Cell Metab 27:419-427.e4
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