Regulation of glucose homeostasis and insulin action by ceramide acyl-chain length: A beneficial role for very long-chain sphingolipid species
In a recent study, we showed that in response to high fat feeding C57BL/6, 129X1, DBA/2 and FVB/N mice all developed glucose intolerance, while BALB/c mice displayed minimal deterioration in glucose tolerance and insulin action. Lipidomic analysis of livers across these five strains has revealedmarked strain-specific differences in ceramide (Cer) and sphingomyelin (SM)specieswith high-fat feeding;with increases in C16-C22 (long-chain) and reductions in C N 22 (very long-chain) Cer and SM species observed in the four strains that developed HFDinduced glucose intolerance. Intriguingly, the opposite pattern was observed in sphingolipid species in BALB/c mice. These strain-specific changes in sphingolipid acylation closely correlated with ceramide synthase 2 (CerS2) protein content and activity, with reduced CerS2 levels/activity observed in glucose intolerant strains and increased content in BALB/c mice. Overexpression of CerS2 in primary mouse hepatocytes induced a specific elevation in very long-chain Cer, but despite the overall increase in ceramide abundance, there was a substantial improvement in insulin signal transduction, as well as decreased ER stress and gluconeogenic markers. Overall our findings suggest that very long-chain sphingolipid species exhibit a protective role against the development of glucose intolerance and hepatic insulin resistance.