Fenofibrate lowers atypical sphingolipids in plasma of dyslipidemic patients: A novel approach for treating diabetic neuropathy?

Alaa Othman, Renee Benghozi, Irina Alecu, Yu Wei, Eric Niesor, Arnold Von Eckardstein, Thorsten Hornemann*

*Corresponding author for this work
11 Citations (Scopus)


Background The condensation of palmitoyl-CoA and L-Serine is the first step in the de novo formation of sphingolipids and catalyzed by the serine-palmitoyltransferase (SPT). Besides other acyl-CoAs the SPT can also metabolize L-alanine and glycine, which forms an atypical category of neurotoxic 1-deoxy-sphingolipids (1-deoxySL). Several mutations in SPT are associated with pathologically increased 1-deoxySL levels, which cause the inherited sensory neuropathy HSAN1. 1-DeoxySL levels are also elevated in individuals with the metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus type II and seem to be involved in the pathology of the diabetic neuropathy. Objective In previous studies, we observed a strong correlation between plasma 1-deoxySLs and triglycerides (TGs). We were therefore interested whether lowering plasma TG levels also affects plasma sphingolipid and in particular, 1-deoxySL levels. Methods Sixty-six patients with dyslipidemia were treated for 6 wk with the TG-lowering drug fenofibrate (160 mg/d) or extended-release niacin (0.5 g/d for 3 wk, then 1 g/d) with 4 wk of washout between treatments. The sphingoid base profile was analyzed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) before and after each treatment block. Results Fenofibrate significantly lowered 1-deoxySLs and other atypical sphingoid bases (P <.001) but had no effect on the typical sphingolipids. In contrast, extended-release niacin had no effect on 1-deoxySL levels although both treatments lowered plasma TG levels. Conclusions The lowering of plasma 1-deoxySL levels by fenofibrate in dyslipidemic patients might be a novel therapeutic approach in the prevention and treatment of diabetic neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Lipidology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)568-575
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 01.07.2015

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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