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De novo lipogenesis (DNL) is paradoxically up-regulated by its end product, saturated fatty acids (SAFAs). We tested the hypothesis that SAFA-induced up-regulation of DNL reflects coordinate up-regulation of elongation and desaturation pathways for disposal of SAFAs and production of monounsaturated fatty acids to protect cells from SAFA toxicity. Human preadipocytes were differentiated in vitro for 14 days with [U-(13)C]palmitate (0-200 microM) to distinguish exogenous fatty acids from those synthesized by DNL. Exogenous palmitate up-regulated DNL (p < 0.001) concomitantly with SCD and elongation (each p < 0.001). Adipocytes from some donors were intolerant to high palmitate concentrations (400 microM). Palmitate-intolerant cells showed lower TG accumulation. They had lower expression of SCD mRNA and less monounsaturated fatty acids in TG, emphasizing the importance of desaturation for dealing with exogenous SAFAs. There was greater [U-(13)C]palmitate incorporation in phospholipids. SCD knockdown with small interfering RNA caused down-regulation of DNL and of expression of DNL-related genes, with reduced membrane fluidity (p < 0.02) and insulin sensitivity (p < 0.01), compared with scrambled small interfering RNA controls. There was preferential channeling of DNL-derived versus exogenous palmitate into elongation and of DNL-derived versus exogenous stearate into desaturation. DNL may not act primarily to increase fat stores but may serve as a key regulator, in tandem with elongation and desaturation, to maintain cell membrane fluidity and insulin sensitivity within the human adipocyte.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





6044 - 6052


Adipocytes, Adult, Fatty Acids, Unsaturated, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic, Humans, Insulin Resistance, Lipogenesis, Male, Membrane Fluidity, Middle Aged, Palmitates, RNA, Messenger, Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase, Young Adult