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Analysis of Neutral Lipid Synthesis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae by Metabolic Labeling and Thin Layer Chromatography

Published: February 2nd, 2021



1Department of Cell Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Here, a protocol is presented for the metabolic labeling of yeast with 14C-acetic acid, which is coupled with thin layer chromatography for the separation of neutral lipids.

Neutral lipids (NLs) are a class of hydrophobic, chargeless biomolecules that play key roles in energy and lipid homeostasis. NLs are synthesized de novo from acetyl-CoA and are primarily present in eukaryotes in the form of triglycerides (TGs) and sterol-esters (SEs). The enzymes responsible for the synthesis of NLs are highly conserved from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) to humans, making yeast a useful model organism to dissect the function and regulation of NL metabolism enzymes. While much is known about how acetyl-CoA is converted into a diverse set of NL species, mechanisms for regulating NL metabolism enzymes, and how mis-regulation can contribute to cellular pathologies, are still being discovered. Numerous methods for the isolation and characterization of NL species have been developed and used over decades of research; however, a quantitative and simple protocol for the comprehensive characterization of major NL species has not been discussed. Here, a simple and adaptable method to quantify the de novo synthesis of major NL species in yeast is presented. We apply 14C-acetic acid metabolic labeling coupled with thin layer chromatography to separate and quantify a diverse range of physiologically important NLs. Additionally, this method can be easily applied to study in vivo reaction rates of NL enzymes or degradation of NL species over time.

Acetyl-CoA is the fundamental building block of diverse biomolecules including neutral lipids (NLs), which serve as a versatile biomolecular currency for building membranes, generating ATP, and regulating cell signaling1,2. The availability of NLs to be shunted into any of these respective pathways is, in part, regulated by their storage. Lipid droplets (LDs), cytoplasmic organelles composed of hydrophobic cores of triglycerides (TGs) and sterol-esters (SEs), are the main storage compartments of most cellular NLs. As such, LDs sequester and regulate NLs, which can be degraded and subsequently utilized for bioc....

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1. Growth and labeling of yeast cells with 14C-acetic acid

  1. Inoculate a yeast culture by picking a colony from a plate and dispensing it into 20 mL of synthetic complete (SC) media containing 2% dextrose (see Supplementary File for the recipe of SC media). Incubate at 30 ˚C for overnight with shaking at 200 rpm.
    NOTE: Growth condition, sample volume, and treatment will differ based on the lipid(s) of interest. Prior to running full experiments, optimal growth conditions .......

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In this protocol, we have demonstrated that the labeling, detection, and quantification of NL species can be accomplished by 14C-acetic acid metabolic labeling. Major NL species can be separated in a solvent system of 50:40:10:1 (v/v/v/v%) Hexane:Petroleum ether:Diethyl ether:Acetic acid (Figure 1A,B). Phosphor imaging allows for visualization of labeled free fatty acid (FFA), triacylglycerol (TG), diacylglycerol (DG), cholesterol (Chol), and squalene (SQ) (

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Here, a versatile radiolabeling protocol to quantitatively monitor the synthesis of NL species in yeast is presented. This protocol is very modular, which allows for the procedure to be finished within 3-6 days. Additionally, a wealth of literature exists on the use of TLC to separate lipid species and metabolites, which should permit the user to detect several lipid species of interest with a simple change of TLC solvent systems16,19.This protocol is conducive t.......

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The authors would like to thank the members of the Henne lab for help and conceptual advice in the completion of this study. W.M.H. is supported by funds from the Welch Foundation (I-1873), the NIH NIGMS (GM119768), the Ara Paresghian Medical Research Fund, and the UT Southwestern Endowed Scholars Program. S.R has been supported by a T32 program grant (5T32GM008297).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
[1-C14] Acetic acid sodium salt specific activity: 45-60mCi PerkinElmer NEC084H001MC
18:1 1,2 dioleoyl-sn-glycerol Avanti 800811O
200 proof absolute ethanol Sigma 459836
Acid washed glass beads 425-600um Sigma G8772
Amber bulbs for Pastuer pipettes Fisher 03-448-24
Ammonium Sulfate >99% Sigma A4418
Beckman LS6500 scintillation counter PerkinElmer A481000
Chloroform (HPLC grade) Fisher C607SK
Cholesterol >99% Sigma C8667
Cholesteryl-linoleate >98% Sigma C0289
Concentrated sulfuric acid Sigma 339741
Corning 50mL conical tubes, polypropylene with centristar cap Sigma CLS430829
Dextrose, anhydrous grade Sigma D9434
Diethyl ether anhydrous grade Sigma 296082
Drying oven Fisher 11-475-155
EcoLume scintillation liquid VWR IC88247001
Eppendorf 5424R centrifuge Fisher 05-401-205
GE Storage phosphor screen Sigma GE28-9564-75
GE Typhoon FLA9500 imager
Glacial acetic acid, ACS grade Sigma 695092
Glass 6mL scintillation vials Sigma M1901
Glass centrifuge tube caps Fisher 14-595-36A
Glass centrifuge tubes Fisher 14-595-35A
Glass Pasteur pipette Fisher 13-678-20C
Hexane, anhydrous grade Sigma 296090
L-Adenine >99% Sigma A8626
L-Alanine >98% Sigma A7627
L-Arginine >99% Sigma A1270000
L-Asparagine >98% Sigma A0884
L-Aspartate >98% Sigma A9256
L-Cysteine >97% Sigma W326305
L-Glutamic acid monosodium salt monohydrate >98% Sigma 49621
L-Glutamine >99% Sigma G3126
L-Glycine >99% Sigma G8898
L-Histidine >99% Sigma H8000
L-Isoleucine >98% Sigma I2752
L-Leucine >98% Sigma L8000
L-Lysine >98% Sigma L5501
L-Methionine, HPLC grade Sigma M9625
L-Phenylalanine, reagent grade Sigma P2126
L-Proline >99% Sigma P0380
L-Serine >99% Sigma S4500
L-Theronine, reagent grade Sigma T8625
L-Tryptophan >98% Sigma T0254
L-Tyrosine >98% Sigma T3754
L-Uracil >99% Sigma U0750
L-Valine >98% Sigma V0500
Methanol, ACS grade Fisher A412
Oleic acid >99% Sigma O1008
p-anisaldehyde Sigma A88107
Petroleum ether, ACS grade Sigma 184519
Phosphatidylcholine, dipalmitoyl >99% Sigma P1652
Pipettes Eppendorf 2231000713
Potassium chloride, ACS grade Sigma P3911
Sodium Hydroxide pellets, certified ACS Fisher S318-100
Squalene >98% Sigma S3626
Succinic Acid crystalline/certified Fisher 110-15-6
TLC saturation pad Sigma Z265225
TLC silica gel 60G glass channeled plate Fisher NC9825743 No fluorescent indicators
Transparency plastic film Apollo 829903
Tricine Sigma T0377
Triolein >99% Sigma T7140
Vortex mixer Fisher 02-215-414
Whatman exposure cassette Sigma WHA29175523
Yeast nitrogen base without ammonium sulfate and amino acids Sigma Y1251

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