Altered plasma serine and 1-deoxydihydroceramide profiles are associated with diabetic neuropathy in type 2 diabetes and obesity

J Diabetes Complications. 2021 Apr;35(4):107852. doi: 10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2021.107852. Epub 2021 Jan 9.


Recent studies suggest that the accumulation of atypical, 1-deoxysphingolipids that lack the C1 hydroxyl group may be associated with diabetic neuropathy (DN). We hypothesized that specific plasma 1-deoxysphingolipids associate with DN severity, and that alterations in plasma serine and alanine associate with 1-deoxysphingolipid elevation in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D). We examined individual 1-deoxysphingolipid species using LC/MS/MS in plasma samples from 75 individuals including lean controls (LC, n = 19), those with obesity (n = 19), obesity with T2D without DN (ob/T2D, n = 18), and obesity with T2D with DN (Ob/T2D/DN, n = 19). We observed a step wise increase in 1-deoxydihydroceramides across these four groups (spearman correlation coefficient r = 0.41, p = 0.0002). Mean total concentrations of 1-deoxydihydroceramides, and most individual 1-deoxydihydroceramide species, were higher in ob/T2D/DN versus LC group (8.939 vs. 5.195 pmol/100 μL for total 1-deoxydihydroceramides p = 0.005). No significant differences in 1-deoxydihydroceramides were observed between the ob/T2D and ob/T2D/DN groups. l-alanine was higher and l-serine lower in ob/T2D/DN versus LC groups (326.2 vs. 248.0 μM, p = 0.0086 and 70.2 vs. 89.8 μM, p = 0.0110), consistent with a potential contribution of these changes to the observed 1-deoxysphingolipids profiles. 1-deoxydihydroceramides correlated inversely with leg intraepidermal nerve fiber density (CC -0.40, p = 0.003). These findings indicate that 1-deoxydihydroceramides may be important biomarkers and/or mediators of DN.

Keywords: Mass spectrometry; Metabolomics; Neuropathy; Obesity; Sphingolipids; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Diabetic Neuropathies* / complications
  • Humans
  • Obesity* / complications
  • Serine
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Serine