Application of Lipidomics in Environmental Research

Lipids are a large group of chemically and structurally non-homogeneous compounds soluble in organic solvents and insoluble in water that occur in nature, including mainly fatty acids and their naturally occurring derivatives (e.g. esters or amines), as well as compounds related to their biosynthesis or function.

Lipids are diverse and have a variety of important biological functions. They are not only a source of energy for organisms, but also a skeletal component of cell membranes, helping to maintain normal cell membrane function. A variety of lipid molecules are precursors for the synthesis of some important physiologically active substances in living organisms. Some lipid molecules are also signaling molecules and play a role in cell signaling.

Abnormal lipid metabolism can cause many human diseases. By analyzing changes in lipids and identifying lipid biomarkers, strategies can be provided for disease prevention and diagnosis. Lipids play a key role in the process of cell tolerance to environmental stress and adaptation to environmental changes. Changes in lipid composition and changes in some lipid synthesis pathways reflect the response mechanism and adaptability of organisms to changes in the external environment.

Lipidomics analysis can localize end metabolites and probe the effects of exogenous stimuli on the organism. Analysis of relevant metabolic pathways can provide powerful information to explore the mechanism of action of exogenous disturbances. The application of lipidomics in environmental research is becoming increasingly common.

Evaluation of environmental stress tolerance

Environmental stress conditions such as salinity, temperature, pH, nutrients, and other factors can cause stress responses in the organism. A series of lipidomics studies have been conducted using different plants (microalgae, Arabidopsis, etc.) and animals (mice, fish, humans, etc.) as model organisms, confirming that lipidomics approaches can monitor the changes in lipid composition and metabolism in organisms caused by external environmental changes in real time.

Applying lipidomics to climate change science in the hydrosphereApplying lipidomics to climate change science in the hydrosphere (Koelmel et al.,2020).

Contaminant exposure studies and toxicity evaluation

Changes in lipid compounds in living organisms can be considered as the response of the organism to the effects of external environmental factors. Changes in lipid metabolites can sensitively indicate and elucidate the toxic effects of foreign interference at the tissue and organ levels, as well as the targets of toxic effects. Therefore, lipidomics techniques can be used to assess the toxic effects caused by environmental pollutant exposure and to infer the molecular mechanisms of toxic effects based on lipid biomarkers. It has the advantages of rapidity, high sensitivity, selectivity, and is also highly advantageous for the assessment of toxic effects of low or environmental doses of pollutants.

Lipidomics techniques can be applied to the study of the toxic effects of organic compounds. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have subchronic toxicity, and the assessment of their toxic effects using lipid metabolomics can provide further insight into their toxic mechanisms of action.


  1. Koelmel, J. P., Napolitano, M. P., Ulmer, et al (2020). Environmental lipidomics: understanding the response of organisms and ecosystems to a changing world. Metabolomics, 16(5), 1-22.
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