Alterations of plasma glycerophospholipid and sphingolipid species in male alcohol-dependent patients

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015 Nov;1851(11):1501-10. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2015.08.005. Epub 2015 Aug 17.


Background: Alcohol abuse is a major risk factor for somatic and neuropsychiatric diseases. Despite their potential clinical importance, little is known about the alterations of plasma glycerophospholipid (GPL) and sphingolipid (SPL) species associated with alcohol abuse.

Methods: Plasma GPL and SPL species were quantified using electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry in samples from 23 male alcohol-dependent patients before and after detoxification, as well as from 20 healthy male controls.

Results: A comparison of alcohol-dependent patients with controls revealed higher phosphatidylcholine (PC; P-value=0.008) and phosphatidylinositol (PI; P-value=0.001) concentrations in patients before detoxification, and higher PI (P-value=0.001) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE)-based plasmalogen (PE P; P-value=0.003) concentrations after detoxification. Lysophosphatidylcholines (LPC) were increased by acute intoxication (P-value=0.002). Sphingomyelin (SM) concentration increased during detoxification (P-value=0.011). The concentration of SM 23:0 was lower in patients (P-value=2.79×10(-5)), and the concentrations of ceramide Cer d18:1/16:0 and Cer d18:1/18:0 were higher in patients (P-value=2.45×10(-5) and 3.73×10(-5)). Activity of lysosomal acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) in patients correlated positively with the concentrations of eight LPC species, while activity of secreted ASM was inversely correlated with several PE, PI and PC species, and positively correlated with the molar ratio of PC to SM (Pearson's r=-0.432; P-value=0.039).

Conclusion: Plasma concentrations of numerous GPL and SPL species were altered in alcohol-dependent patients. These molecules might serve as potential biomarkers to improve the diagnosis of patients and to indicate health risks associated with alcohol abuse. Our study further indicates that there are strong interactions between plasma GPL concentrations and SPL metabolism.

Keywords: Acid sphingomyelinase; Alcohol dependence; Anxiety; Cardiovascular; Case–control study; Ceramide; Clinical; Depression; Diagnostic; Disease; Glycerophospholipids; Lysophosphatidylcholines; Mass spectrometry; Phosphatidylcholines; Phosphatidylinositols; Plasma; Plasmalogens; Sphingolipids; Sphingomyelin; Tandem mass spectrometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / blood*
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Ceramides / blood
  • Humans
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phosphatidylcholines / blood
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / blood
  • Phosphatidylinositols / blood
  • Plasmalogens / blood
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase / blood
  • Sphingomyelins / blood


  • Ceramides
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Phosphatidylinositols
  • Plasmalogens
  • Sphingomyelins
  • phosphatidal ethanolamines
  • phosphatidylethanolamine
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase