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Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences


Reduced insulin action develops naturally during the peripartum to ensure maternal nutrient delivery to the fetus and neonate. However, increased insulin resistance can facilitate excessive lipolysis which in turn promotes metabolic disease in overweight dairy cattle. Increased fatty acid availability favors the accumulation of the sphingolipid ceramide and is implicated in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, however, the relationship between sphingolipid metabolism and insulin resistance during the peripartum remains largely unknown. Our objectives were to characterize temporal responses in plasma and tissue sphingolipids in lean and overweight peripartal cows and to establish the relationships between sphingolipid supply and lipolysis, hepatic lipid deposition, and systemic insulin action. Twenty-one multiparous lean and overweight Holstein cows were enrolled in a longitudinal study spanning the transition from gestation to lactation (d -21 to 21, relative to parturition). Plasma, liver, and skeletal muscle samples were obtained, and sphingolipids were profiled using LC/MS/MS. Insulin sensitivity was assessed utilizing intravenous insulin and glucose challenges. Our results demonstrated the following: first, insulin resistance develops postpartum concurrently with increased lipolysis and hepatic lipid accumulation; second, ceramides and glycosylated ceramides accumulate during the transition from gestation to lactation and are further elevated in overweight cows; third, ceramide accrual is associated with lipolysis and liver lipid accumulation, and C16:0- and C24:0-ceramide are inversely associated with systemic insulin sensitivity postpartum; fourth, plasma sphingomyelin, a potential source of ceramides reaches a nadir at parturition and is closely associated with feed intake; fifth, select sphingomyelins are lower in the plasma of overweight cows during the peripartal period. Our results demonstrate that dynamic changes occur in peripartal sphingolipids that are influenced by adiposity, and are associated with the onset of peripartal insulin resistance. These observations are in agreement with a putative potential role for sphingolipids in facilitating the physiological adaptations of peripartum.

Source Citation

Rico JE, Saed Samii S, Mathews AT, Lovett J, Haughey NJ, McFadden JW (2017) Temporal changes in sphingolipids and systemic insulin sensitivity during the transition from gestation to lactation. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0176787.


© 2017 Rico et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

The article is supported by the WVU Libraries' Open Access Author Fund.



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