Plasma phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin concentrations are associated with depression and anxiety symptoms in a Dutch family-based lipidomics study
van Duijn CM
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The central nervous system has the second highest concentration of lipids after adipose tissue. Alterations in neural membrane phospho- and sphingolipid composition can influence crucial intra- and intercellular signalling and alter the membrane's properties. Recently, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) hypothesis for depression suggests that phospho- and sphingolipid metabolism includes potential pathways for the disease. In 742 people from a Dutch family-based study, we assessed the relationships between 148 different plasma phospho- and sphingolipid species and depression/anxiety symptoms as measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scales (HADS-A and HADS-D) and the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). We observed significant differences in plasma sphingomyelins (SPM), particularly the SPM 23:1/SPM 16:0 ratio, which was inversely correlated with depressive symptom scores. We observed a similar trend for plasma phosphatidylcholines (PC), particularly the molar proportion of PC O 36:4 and its ratio to ceramide CER 20:0. Absolute levels of PC O 36:4 were also associated with depression symptoms in an independent replication. To our knowledge this is the first study on depressive symptoms that focuses on specific phospho- and sphingolipid molecules in plasma rather than total PUFA concentrations. The findings of this lipidomic study suggests that plasma sphingomyelins and ether phospholipids should be further studied for their potential as biomarkers and for a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of this systemic disease.