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Discovery of a new Metabolic Pathway of a Known Lipid has Implications in Cancer, Obesity

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Discovery of a new Metabolic Pathway of a Known Lipid has Implications in Cancer, Obesity

Stony Brook investigators publish research findings in journal Cell Metabolism


Dr. Lina Obeid in her Stony Brook Medicine laboratory

Stony Brook, NY – March 9, 2017 – A collaborative Stony Brook University research team has discovered a novel metabolic pathway of the lipid ceramide, which is involved in cell death. The finding illustrates that ceramide is stored in lipid droplets, a step that may help to uncover processes necessary for cell death and lipid metabolism, and therefore has implications in the development of cancer or obesity. The paper is published in Cell Metabolism.

Led by Lina M. Obeid, MD, Dean of Research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, the team of researchers, largely from the Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging, found that ceramide is metabolized by the addition of a fatty acid to make a new lipid called acylceramide. This new lipid is then stored in cells as a fatty body called a lipid droplet. The paper, titled “Ceramide is Metabolized to Acylceramide and Stored in Lipid Droplets,” details the steps the team took in the laboratory in reaching the discovery.

“The storage of acylceramide in the lipid droplet appears to sequester it away from its ability to be biologically active, thus making cells somewhat resistant to chemotherapy ceramide-induced cell death pathways,” explains Dr. Obeid. “We also discovered that this metabolic pathway occurs by a newly described interaction between three proteins, the ceramide-synthesizing protein called CerS, the fatty acyl-CoA synthetase protein called ACSL, and the enzyme that adds them together named DGAT2, also utilized in fatty triglyceride synthesis.”

The three proteins appear to form a complex that uses the lipid ceramide and the fatty acid to form the acylceramide in the lipid droplet in cells.

The research team also showed that a high fat diet can cause this complex of proteins to form in the liver, which has added implications to cell death resistance and therefore the development of cancer.

Co-authors of the paper include researchers from the Stony Brook University Cancer Center, Stony Brook University Department of Medicine, the Stony Brook Proteomics Center, the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Mansoura University in Egypt.


About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 25,700 students, 2,500 faculty members, and 20 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S.News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.


Greg Filiano
Media Relations Manager, School of Medicine, Stony Brook University
Office: 631.444.9343

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