FADS3 is a Δ14Z sphingoid base desaturase that contributes to gender differences in the human plasma sphingolipidome

Gergely Karsai, Museer Lone, Zoltán Kutalik, J. Thomas Brenna, Hongde Li, Duojia Pan, Arnold von Eckardstein, T. Hornemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Sphingolipids (SLs) are structurally diverse lipids that are defined by the presence of a long-chain base (LCB) backbone. Typically, LCBs contain a single Δ4E double bond (DB) (mostly d18:1), whereas the dienic LCB sphingadienine (d18:2) contains a second DB at the Δ14Z position. The enzyme introducing the Δ14Z DB is unknown. We analyzed the LCB plasma profile in a gender-, age-, and BMI-matched subgroup of the CoLaus cohort (n = 658). Sphingadienine levels showed a significant association with gender, being on average ∼30% higher in females. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) revealed variants in the fatty acid desaturase 3 (FADS3) gene to be significantly associated with the plasma d18:2/d18:1 ratio (p = -log 7.9). Metabolic labeling assays, FADS3 overexpression and knockdown approaches, and plasma LCB profiling in FADS3-deficient mice confirmed that FADS3 is a bona fide LCB desaturase and required for the introduction of the Δ14Z double bond. Moreover, we showed that FADS3 is required for the conversion of the atypical cytotoxic 1-deoxysphinganine (1-deoxySA, m18:0) to 1-deoxysphingosine (1-deoxySO, m18:1). HEK293 cells overexpressing FADS3 were more resistant to m18:0 toxicity than WT cells. In summary, using a combination of metabolic profiling and GWAS, we identified FADS3 to be essential for forming Δ14Z DB containing LCBs, such as d18:2 and m18:1. Our results unravel FADS3 as a Δ14Z LCB desaturase, thereby disclosing the last missing enzyme of the SL de novo synthesis pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1889-1897
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'FADS3 is a Δ14Z sphingoid base desaturase that contributes to gender differences in the human plasma sphingolipidome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this