The Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology houses a chromatographic- and mass spectrometric facility (lipidomics center) that is specialized in the analysis of lipids. The lipidomics center has recently been upgraded by the acquisition of three new mass spectrometers with the latest technology.  It provides complete molecular analyses of a broad spectrum of (phospho)lipids as well as of unusual lipids.  

Lipidomics
The enormous advances in biology and biomedical research during the last decade originate mainly from the fields of Genomics and Proteomics. The current revolution in lipid analysis, however, promises additional benefits from this area of expertise. For the first time the methodological possibilities are available to map the entire spectrum of lipids in cells, tissues and whole organisms. Mass spectrometry based nano-scale and high throughput technologies combined with molecular imaging and modern information technology will revolutionize our understanding of the complex interaction networks in a functioning cell and how lipids together with genes and proteins determine cellular functions in health and disease (excerpts taken from a press release from LipidomicNet, an EU funded project that aims to exploit the recent developments in lipidomics technology).

Our Department participates in this European initiative to establish high-throughput methods to define drugable targets and novel biomarkers related to lipid droplet lipid and protein species, their interaction and regulation during assembly, disassembly and storage. The research groups study lipid protein interactions and investigate the dynamics of fat deposition and release in relevant cells as a hallmark of energy overload diseases with major health care impact in Europe.  

Equipment
The available technologies include MS based lipidomics techniques (three mass spectrometers, all equipped with ion sources (turbo-)ESI, nano-ESI, and APCI, autosamplers, micropumps, and UV detectors, HPLC, Evaporative Light Scattering Detectors wavelength UV detector,  and variable wavelength Fluorescence detector), assays for lipid metabolism using heavy isotope labeled precursors, lipid isolation and separation techniques.

Lipid analysis
Many different chromatographic procedures are performed on a routinely basis. They include (but are not limited to) the separation of phospholipid classes, glycolipids, cholesterol oxides and molecular species of phospholipids, di- and triacylglycerols.  

Full characterisation of lipids is achieved by combination of liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. For this purpose, we have triple stage quadrupole mass spectrometers available, equipped with electrospray ionisation (ESI), atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation (APCI) and nanospray ionisation (nano-ESI) sources. This set of ionisation techniques allows the ionisation of very hydrophobic lipids such as triacylglycerols and cholesterol, as well as charged lipids such as phospholipids and fatty acids. Furthermore, the availability of the nanospray ionisation technique enables the analysis of lipids at the picomole level, which is of particular importance for low abundant lipids. 

State of the art analysis techniques include the identification of phospholipid molecular species including the unequivocal identification of sn-1 and sn-2 substituents in a single run, and the elucidation of double bond positions in fatty acyl chains.  

These techniques are employed in many of the research projects described elsewhere on this website.

Contact
For more information you can contact the department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.