Post-sampling release of free fatty acids - effects of heat stabilization and methods of euthanasia

J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 2015 Jan-Feb;71:13-20. doi: 10.1016/j.vascn.2014.11.001. Epub 2014 Nov 8.


Introduction: The field of lipid research has made progress and it is now possible to study the lipidome of cells and organelles. A basic requirement of a successful lipid study is adequate pre-analytical sample handling, as some lipids can be unstable and postmortem changes can cause substantial accumulation of free fatty acids (FFAs).

Methods: The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of conductive heat stabilization and euthanasia methods on FFA levels in the rat brain and liver using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry.

Results: The analysis of brain homogenates clearly demonstrated phospholipase activity and time-dependent post-sampling changes in the lipid pool of snap frozen non-stabilized tissue. There was a significant increase in FFAs already at 2min, which continued over time. Heat stabilization was shown to be an efficient method to reduce phospholipase activity and ex vivo lipolysis. Post-sampling effects due to tissue thawing and sample preparation induced a massive release of FFAs (up to 3700%) from non-stabilized liver and brain tissues compared to heat stabilized tissue. Furthermore, the choice of euthanasia method significantly influenced the levels of FFAs in the brain. The FFAs were decreased by 15-44% in the group of animals euthanized by pentobarbital injection compared with CO2 inhalation or decapitation.

Discussion: Our results highlight the importance of considering euthanasia methods and pre-analytical treatment in lipid analysis, factors which may otherwise interfere with the outcome of the experiments.

Keywords: Carbon dioxide; Decapitation; Lipidomics; Lipolysis; Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry; Pentobarbital; Post-sampling variation; Postmortem changes; Sample fixation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Euthanasia, Animal*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / metabolism*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified