Membrane flexibility, free fatty acids, and the onset of vascular and neurological lesions in type 2 diabetes.
Free fatty acids released from human adipose tissue contain a limited amount of non-esterified poly-cis-unsaturated fatty acids. In cases of elevated plasma free fatty acids, this condition ultimately leads to a shift from unsaturated to saturated fatty-acyl chains in membrane phospholipids. Because this shift promotes the physical attractive van der Waals interactions between phospholipid acyl chains, it increases stiffness of both erythrocyte and endothelial membranes, which causes a reduction in both insulin-independent and insulin-dependent Class 1 glucose transporters, a reduction in cell membrane functionality, and a decreased microcirculatory blood flow which results in tissue hypoxia. Against the background of these processes, we review recently published experimental phospholipid data obtained from Drosophila melanogaster and from human erythrocytes of controls and patients with type 2 diabetes, with and without retinopathy, along the way free fatty acids interfere with eye and kidney function in patients with type 2 diabetes and give rise to endoplasmic reticulum stress, reduced insulin sensitivity, and ischemia.
J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2016 Apr 27;15:13. doi: 10.1186/s40200-016-0235-9. eCollection 2015.