Identification of fatty acids and fatty acid amides in human meibomian gland secretions

Academic Article


  • PURPOSE. The complex superficial lipid layer of the tear film functions to prevent evaporation and maintain tear stability. Although classes of lipids found in the tear film have been reported, individual lipid species are currently being studied with more sophisticated methods. The purpose of this work was to show the identification of fatty acids and the fatty acid amides in human meibomian gland secretions by using electrospray mass spectrometry. METHODS. Human meibomian gland secretions (meibum) were analyzed by electrospray quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (positive- and negative-ion mode). Accurate mass determination and collision-induced dissociation of meibum, and lipid standards were used to identify lipid species. RESULTS. Mass analysis of meibum in an acidic chloroform-methanol solution in positive-ion mode revealed a mass peak of m/z 282.3, which was identified as the protonated molecule of oleamide [C18H35NO+H]+. The high-resolution mass analysis of the m/z 282.2788 peak (oleamide) demonstrated a mass accuracy of 3.2 parts per million (ppm). Collision-induced dissociation of this species from meibum, compared with an oleamide standard, confirmed its identification. Myristic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic free fatty acids were identified in a similar manner, as were the other fatty acid amides (myristamide, palmitamide, stearamide, and erucamide). CONCLUSIONS. The findings indicate that oleamide (cis-9-octadecenamide), an endogenous fatty acid primary amide, is a predominant component of meibum when examined by electrospray mass spectrometry. The novel finding of oleamide and other members of the fatty acid amide family in the tear film could lead to additional insights into the role of fatty acid amide activity in human biological systems and may indicate a new function for this lipid class of molecules in ocular surface signaling and/or in the maintenance of the complex tear film. Copyright © Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Nichols KK; Ham BM; Nichols JJ; Ziegler C; Green-Church KB
  • Start Page

  • 34
  • End Page

  • 39
  • Volume

  • 48
  • Issue

  • 1