Using a lipidomics approach for nutritional phenotyping in response to a test meal containing gamma-linolenic acid

Tomas Cajka, Ryan Davis, Kathryn J. Austin, John W. Newman, J. Bruce German, Oliver Fiehn, Jennifer T. Smilowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Introduction: Plasma fatty acids are derived from preformed sources in the diet and de novo synthesis through the action of desaturase and elongase enzymes. Objective: This study was designed to examine the elongation of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3n6) into dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA, 20:3n6) over an 8-h period using both targeted gas chromatography–flame ionization detection and untargeted liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry-based lipidomics utilizing the sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment-ion spectra (SWATH). Methods: In a single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design, seven healthy subjects consumed a test meal that consisted of GLA fat (borage oil) or a control fat (a mixture of corn, safflower, sunflower and extra-virgin light olive oils) on three separate test days for each test meal. Results: Total plasma fatty acid concentrations and 366 unique lipid species were measured at 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 h in response to the test meals. Mean plasma 18:3n6 was 7-fold higher to the GLA challenge compared with baseline and the control meal. By 8 h, mean plasma 20:3n6 was significantly higher in response to the GLA test meal than baseline and the control group. Five of the seven subjects were “responders” in converting GLA into DGLA, but two subjects did not show this conversion. The conversion was independent of physical activity level. Conclusion: Using polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism as an example, this study demonstrates inter-individual differences in enzymatic capacities to inform exact nutritional and metabolic phenotyping that could be used for precision medicine. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number127
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid
  • Gamma-linolenic acid
  • Lipidomics
  • Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry
  • Phenotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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