Differential effects of saturated and unsaturated free fatty acids on ferroptosis in rat β-cells

J Nutr Biochem. 2022 Aug;106:109013. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2022.109013. Epub 2022 Apr 19.


Elevated plasma concentrations of saturated free fatty acids (SFAs) are involved in pancreatic β-cell dysfunction and apoptosis, referred to as lipotoxicity. However, in contrast to apoptosis, the involvement of ferroptosis, as a distinct type of oxidative regulated cell death in β-cell lipotoxicity remains elusive. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the effects of various free fatty acids on ferroptosis induction in rat insulin-producing β-cells. Herein, rat insulin-producing β-cells underwent lipid peroxidation in the presence of long-chain SFAs and ω-6-polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), but only the latter induced ferroptosis. On the other hand, the ω-3-PUFA α-linolenate did not induce ferroptosis but sensitized insulin-producing β-cells to SFA-mediated lipid peroxidation. While the monounsaturated fatty acid oleate, overexpression of glutathione peroxidase 4, and the specific ferroptosis inhibitor ferrostatin-1 significantly abrogated lipid peroxidation, neither glutathione peroxidase 4 nor ferrostatin-1 affected palmitate-mediated toxicity. Site-specific expression of catalase in cytosol, mitochondria, and ER attenuated lipid peroxidation, indicating the contribution of metabolically generated H2O2 from all three subcellular compartments. These observations suggest that only ω-6-PUFAs reach the thresholds of lipid peroxidation required for ferroptosis, whereas SFAs favour apoptosis in β-cells. Hence, avoiding an excessive dietary intake of ω-6-PUFAs might be a crucial prerequisite for prevention of reactive oxygen species-mediated ferroptosis in insulin-producing cells.

Keywords: Beta-cell (β-cell); Ferroptosis; Free fatty acids; Glutathione peroxidase 4; Reactive oxygen species; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3*
  • Ferroptosis*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Insulins* / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Phospholipid Hydroperoxide Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Rats


  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Insulins
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Phospholipid Hydroperoxide Glutathione Peroxidase