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Richard S. Brush, Julie-Thu A. Tran, Kimberly R. Henry, Mark E. McClellan, Michael H. Elliott, Md Nawajes A. Mandal; Retinal Sphingolipids and Their Very-Long-Chain Fatty Acid–Containing Species. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2010;51(9):4422-4431. doi: 10.1167/iovs.09-5134.
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Recent evidence suggests that ceramide metabolism plays an important role in retinal photoreceptor cell survival and apoptosis. The purpose of this study was to characterize sphingolipids in the retina with special emphasis on the very-long-chain–containing saturated (VLC-FA) and polyunsaturated (VLC-PUFA) fatty acid–containing species. The VLC-FAs and VLC-PUFAs are synthesized by the ELOVL4 protein, which is involved in human Stargardt's macular dystrophy type 3 (STGD3).
Total lipids were extracted from retina and other tissues, and different sphingolipid classes were isolated and purified using various combinations of liquid- and solid-phase separation. Purified sphingolipids were analyzed by high-performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC), gas chromatography (GC), and GC-MS (GC-mass spectrometry).
Nonsialylated sphingolipids (NSLs) comprised ∼3.5% of total retinal lipids of which 70% was sphingomyelin. Ceramide and glycosylceramides (GCs) constituted ≤1% of total retinal lipids. Gangliosides (GGs), on the other hand, comprised ∼3.0% of total retinal lipids. Fatty acid analysis of retinal NSLs indicated an abundance of saturated fatty acids, with the presence of VLC-FAs but not of VLC-PUFAs beyond 24 carbons. However, GG had significant levels of unsaturated, polyunsaturated, and VLC-PUFAs. Retinal rod outer segments (ROS) contained ∼1% each of NSL and GG, and their fatty acid profile was not very different from whole retinal NSL and GG, respectively.
Retina has a total of 6% to 7% fatty acids that are N-linked to a sphingosine, which would be 11 to 13 mole % in comparison to phospholipids. The presence of VLC-FAs and VLC-PUFAs in retinal sphingolipids indicates that they may play role in ELOVL4-mediated Stargardt 3.
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