Metabolic syndrome increases risk of complicating co-morbidities. Current clinical indicators reflect established metabolic impairment, preventing earlier intervention strategies. Here we show that circulating sphingolipids are altered in the very early stages of insulin resistance development. The study involved 16 paired overweight but healthy monkeys, one-half of which spontaneously developed metabolic syndrome over the course of 2 years. Importantly, animals did not differ in adiposity and were euglycemic throughout the study period. Using mass spectrometry, circulating sphingolipids, including ceramides and sphingomyelins, were detected and quantified for healthy and impaired animals at both time points. At time of diagnosis, several ceramides were significantly different between healthy and impaired animals. Correlation analysis revealed differences in the interactions among ceramides in impaired animals at diagnosis and pre-diagnosis when animals were clinically indistinguishable from controls. Furthermore, correlations between ceramides and early-stage markers of insulin resistance, diacylglycerols and non-esterified fatty acids, were distinct for healthy and impaired states. Regression analysis identifies coordinated changes in lipid handling across lipid classes as animals progress from healthy to insulin resistant. Correlations between ceramides and the adipose-derived adipokine adiponectin were apparent in healthy animals but not in the metabolically impaired animals, even in advance of loss in insulin sensitivity. These data suggest that circulating ceramides are clinically relevant in identifying disease risk independent of differences in adiposity, and may be important in devising preventative strategies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas