Introduction: Low gut microbiome richness is associated with dyslipidemia and insulin resistance, and ceramides and other sphingolipids are implicated in the development of diabetes.
Objectives: Determine whether circulating sphingolipids, particularly ceramides, are associated with alterations in the gut microbiome among obese patients with increased diabetes risk.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional and longitudinal retrospective analysis of a dietary/weight loss intervention. Fasted serum was collected from 49 participants (41 women) and analyzed by HPLC-MS/MS to quantify 45 sphingolipids. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing of stool was performed to profile the gut microbiome.
Results: Confirming the link to deteriorated glucose homeostasis, serum ceramides were positively correlated with fasting glucose, but inversely correlated with fasting and OGTT-derived measures of insulin sensitivity and β-cell function. Significant associations with gut dysbiosis were demonstrated, with SM and ceramides being inversely correlated with gene richness. Ceramides with fatty acid chain lengths of 20-24 carbons were the most associated with low richness. Diet-induced weight loss, which improved gene richness, decreased most sphingolipids. Thirty-one MGS, mostly corresponding to unidentified bacteria species, were inversely correlated with ceramides, including a number of Bifidobacterium and Methanobrevibacter smithii. Higher ceramide levels were also associated with increased metagenomic modules for lipopolysaccharide synthesis and flagellan synthesis, two pathogen-associated molecular patterns, and decreased enrichment of genes involved in methanogenesis and bile acid metabolism.
Conclusion: This study identifies an association between gut microbiota richness, ceramides, and diabetes risk in overweight/obese humans, and suggests that the gut microbiota may contribute to dysregulation of lipid metabolism in metabolic disorders.
Keywords: Ceramides; Endotoxin; Glucose metabolism; Microbiome; Sphingolipids.