Adipose tissue (AT) regulates systemic insulin sensitivity through multiple mechanisms, and alterations in de novo lipogenesis appear to contribute. Mice overexpressing GLUT4 in adipocytes (AG4OX) have elevated AT lipogenesis and enhanced glucose tolerance despite being obese and having elevated circulating fatty acids. Lipidomic analysis of AT identified a structurally unique class of lipids, branched fatty acid esters of hydroxy-fatty acids (FAHFAs), which were elevated in AT and serum of AG4OX mice. Palmitic acid esters of hydroxy-stearic acids (PAHSAs) are among the most upregulated FAHFA families in AG4OX mice. Eight PAHSA isomers are present in mouse and human tissues. PAHSA levels are reduced in insulin resistant people, and levels correlate highly with insulin sensitivity. PAHSAs have beneficial metabolic effects. Treatment of obese mice with PAHSAs lowers glycemia and improves glucose tolerance while stimulating glucagon-like peptide 1 and insulin secretion. PAHSAs also reduce inflammatory cytokine production from immune cells and ameliorate adipose inflammation in obesity. PAHSA isomer concentrations are altered in physiological and pathophysiological conditions in a tissue- and isomer-specific manner. The mechanisms most likely involve changes in PAHSA biosynthesis, degradation, and secretion. The discovery of PAHSAs reveals the existence of previously unknown endogenous lipids and biochemical pathways involved in metabolism and inflammation, two fundamental physiological processes.
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