Probing de novo sphingolipid metabolism in mammalian cells utilizing mass spectrometry

Justin M. Snider, Ashley J. Snider, Lina M. Obeid, Chiara Luberto, Yusuf A. Hannun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Sphingolipids constitute a dynamic metabolic network that interconnects several bioactive molecules, including ceramide (Cer), sphingosine (Sph), Sph 1-phosphate, and Cer 1-phosphate. The interconversion of these metabolites is controlled by a cohort of at least 40 enzymes, many of which respond to endogenous or exogenous stimuli. Typical probing of the sphingolipid pathway relies on sphingolipid mass levels or determination of the activity of individual enzymes. Either approach is unable to provide a complete analysis of flux through sphingolipid metabolism, which, given the interconnectivity of the sphingolipid pathway, is critical information to identify nodes of regulation. Here, we present a one-step in situ assay that comprehensively probes the flux through de novo sphingolipid synthesis, post serine palmitoyltransferase, by monitoring the incorporation and metabolism of the 17 carbon dihydrosphingosine precursor with LC/MS. Pulse labeling and analysis of precursor metabolism identified sequential well-defined phases of sphingolipid synthesis, corresponding to the activity of different enzymes in the pathway, further confirmed by the use of specific inhibitors and modulators of sphingolipid metabolism. This work establishes precursor pulse labeling as a practical tool for comprehensively studying metabolic flux through de novo sphingolipid synthesis and complex sphingolipid generation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1046-1057
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • 17 carbon dihydrosphingosine
  • 17CdhSph
  • D17dhSph
  • Flux

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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