Application of stable isotopes to investigate the metabolism of fatty acids, glycerophospholipid and sphingolipid species

Prog Lipid Res. 2014 Apr;54:14-31. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Jan 24.


Nature provides an enormous diversity of lipid molecules that originate from various pathways. To gain insight into the metabolism and dynamics of lipid species, the application of stable isotope-labeled tracers combined with mass spectrometric analysis represents a perfect tool. This review provides an overview of strategies to track fatty acid, glycerophospholipid, and sphingolipid metabolism. In particular, the selection of stable isotope-labeled precursors and their mass spectrometric analysis is discussed. Furthermore, examples of metabolic studies that were performed in cell culture, animal and clinical experiments are presented.

Keywords: Lipid biosynthesis; Lipid metabolism; Lipidomics; Mass spectrometry; Metabolic profiling; Stable isotope labeling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Glycerophospholipids / biosynthesis
  • Glycerophospholipids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isotopes
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Sphingolipids / biosynthesis
  • Sphingolipids / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycerophospholipids
  • Isotopes
  • Sphingolipids