Isomeric lipid signatures reveal compartmentalized fatty acid metabolism in cancer

Reuben S E Young, Andrew P Bowman, Kaylyn D Tousignant, Berwyck L J Poad, Jennifer H Gunter, Lisa K Philp, Colleen C Nelson, Shane R Ellis, Ron M A Heeren, Martin C Sadowski*, Stephen J Blanksby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)


The cellular energy and biomass demands of cancer drive a complex dynamic between uptake of extracellular fatty acids (FA) and their de novo synthesis. Given that oxidation of de novo synthesized FAs for energy would result in net-energy loss, there is an implication that FAs from these two sources must have distinct metabolic fates; however, hitherto all FAs have been considered part of a common pool. To probe potential metabolic partitioning of cellular FAs, cancer cells were supplemented with stable isotope-labeled FAs. Structural analysis of the resulting glycerophospholipids revealed that labeled FAs from uptake were largely incorporated to canonical (sn-) positions on the glycerol backbone. Surprisingly, labelled FA uptake also disrupted canonical isomer patterns of the unlabeled lipidome, and induced repartitioning of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated FAs into glycerophospholipid classes. These structural changes support the existence of differences in the metabolic fates of FAs derived from uptake or de novo sources and demonstrate unique signaling and remodeling behaviors usually hidden from conventional lipidomics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100223
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number6
Early online date7 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • FA
  • MASS
  • PH
  • imaging MS
  • lipase
  • lipid isomers
  • lipolysis and FA metabolism
  • metabolism
  • ozone-induced dissociation
  • phosphatidylcholine
  • phospholipid
  • phospholipids
  • stable-isotope tracing
  • transport

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