Triacylglycerol lipidome from human meibomian gland epithelial cells: Description, response to culture conditions, and perspective on function

Academic Article


  • Preliminary work has shown that select triacylglycerols (TAGs) are upregulated in a preclinical model of MGD, suggesting that TAGs may be an important outcome variable in research involving human meibomian gland epithelial cells (HMGECs). The purpose of this study was to explore the HMGEC TAG lipidome in culture conditions known to influence differentiation. HMGECs were differentiated in DMEM/F12 with 10 ng/ml EGF, FBS (2% or 10%), and rosiglitazone (0, 20, or 50 μM) for two or five days. Following culture, lipids were extracted, processed, and directly infused into a Triple TOF 5600 mass spectrometer (SCIEX, Framingham, MA) with electrospray ionization. MS and MS/MSALL spectra were acquired in the positive ion mode and performed with the SWATH technology. Only the TAGs that were present in all 48 samples were included in the analysis. Multiple regression techniques were utilized to assess the effects of each factor (FBS, rosiglitazone, and culture duration) on each expressed TAG. The HMGEC TAG lipidome consisted of 115 TAGs with 42–62 carbons and zero to 10 double bonds. Fatty acyl chains had 14 to 26 carbons and zero to five double bonds. C18:1 (oleic acid, 25/115, 21.7%) and C16:0 (palmitic acid, 16/115, 13.9%) were the most common fatty acids. FBS, rosiglitazone, and culture duration were significant predictors for 93 TAGs (80.9%) with R2 values ranging from 0.20 to 0.77 (p < 0.05). FBS and rosiglitazone achieved significance (p < 0.05) for 80 (69.6%) and 67 TAGs (58.3%), respectively. Rosiglitazone demonstrated a selective upregulation of TAGs containing 16 or 18 carbons. Culture duration reached significance (p < 0.05) for only 36 TAGs (31.3%). When comparing the 10 most abundant C18:1-containing TAGs in meibum, FBS was a negative predictor for five TAGs (mean standardized coefficient [SC] = −0.58, p < 0.001), rosiglitazone was a positive predictor for six TAGs (mean SC = 0.41, p ≤ 0.03), and culture duration weakly influenced one TAG (SC = 0.27, p = 0.008). FBS and rosiglitazone, unlike culture duration, are powerful modulators of the TAG profile. Rosiglitazone induces changes that could be consistent with fatty acid synthesis, suggesting that quantifying the TAG lipidome could be an indirect measure of lipogenesis. Though both have been described as differentiating agents, FBS and rosiglitazone induce opposing effects on meibum-relevant TAGs. Culturing with rosiglitazone is associated with a TAG profile that is more consistent with the expected outcome of lipogenesis and with the profile observed in normal human meibum.
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  • Ziemanski JF; Wilson L; Barnes S; Nichols KK
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  • 207