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Novel function of vitamin E in regulation of zebrafish (Danio rerio) brain lysophospholipids discovered using lipidomics.

Choi J, Leonard SW, Kasper K, McDougall M3, Stevens JF, Tanguay RL, Traber MG. (2015) J Lipid Res.  2015 Jun 56(6) 1182-1190 doi: 10.1194/jlr.M058941. Epub 2015 Apr 8.

Web URL: View this and related abstract via PubMed here. Free full text is available online.


We hypothesized that brains from vitamin E-deficient (E-) zebrafish (Danio rerio) would undergo increased lipid peroxidation because they contain highly polyunsaturated fatty acids, thus susceptible lipids could be identified.

Brains from zebrafish fed for 9 months defined diets without (E-) or with (E+) added vitamin E (500 mg RRR-α-tocopheryl acetate per kilogram diet) were studied.

Using an untargeted approach, 1-hexadecanoyl-2-docosahexaenoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DHA-PC 38:6, PC 16:0/22:6]was the lipid that showed the most significant and greatest fold-differences between groups. DHA-PC concentrations were approximately 1/3 lower in E- (4.3 ± 0.6 mg/g) compared with E+ brains (6.5 ± 0.9 mg/g, mean ± SEM, n = 10 per group, P = 0.04).

Using lipidomics, 155 lipids in brain extracts were identified. Only four phospholipids (PLs) were different (P < 0.05) between groups; they were lower in E- brains and contained DHA with DHA-PC 38:6 at the highest abundances. Moreover, hydroxy-DHA-PC 38:6 was increased in E- brains (P = 0.0341) supporting the hypothesis of DHA peroxidation. More striking was the depletion in E- brains of nearly 60% of 19 different lysophospholipids (lysoPLs) (combined P = 0.0003), which are critical for membrane PL remodeling.

Thus, E- brains contained fewer DHA-PLs, more hydroxy-DHA-PCs, and fewer lysoPLs, suggesting that lipid peroxidation depletes membrane DHA-PC and homeostatic mechanisms to repair the damage resulting in lysoPL depletion.


Vitamin E has antioxidant properties, and is known to help protect highly unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes.

In this animal model, Vitamin E deficiency was shown not only to reduce brain phospholipids rich in long-chain omega-3 DHA, as expected, but also led to a profound reduction in lysophospholipids, important in membrane remodelling and repair.

These findings confirm that Vitamin E deficiency leads to lipid peroxidation that can seriously impair brain lipid metabolism.