Session 5 – Membrane Chemistry


The dynamics of lipid metabolism - alkyne lipids as sensitive tracers

Christoph Thiele is a Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology of Lipids and a lipid metabolic tracing specialist–studying the lipidome's dynamics. Fatty acids are major building blocks of membrane lipids and precursors of many signaling substances. In form of triglycerides, they are abundant components of our nutrition. The principal organs of fatty acid metabolism are the gut, liver, muscle, and adipose tissue, but all other tissues also can use fatty acids either for the generation of membrane lipids or for metabolic energy. Our lipidome contains several thousands of lipids, most containing fatty acids. Accordingly, the metabolism of fatty acids is highly complex and amazingly fast – a labeled fatty acid is found in hundreds of different compounds after five minutes of metabolism. Understanding this complexity and its pathological deviations needs experimental tools that offer high sensitivity and time resolution. Tracing needs a tracer as similar as possible to the target molecule but reliably distinguishable. Our tracers are alkynes - fatty acids and other lipids that contain a terminal triple bond. We feed them to biological systems in which they are metabolized, and then we collect and analyze the alkyne-containing (= labeled) lipids. For that, we have developed two technologies: Mass spectrometric tracing and Fluorescent tracing.