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ACS Chem Biol. 2013 Feb 15;8(2):314-9. doi: 10.1021/cb3004644. Epub 2012 Nov 26.

2D NMR-based metabolomics uncovers interactions between conserved biochemical pathways in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Boyce Thompson Institute and Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Ascarosides are small-molecule signals that play a central role in C. elegans biology, including dauer formation, aging, and social behaviors, but many aspects of their biosynthesis remain unknown. Using automated 2D NMR-based comparative metabolomics, we identified ascaroside ethanolamides as shunt metabolites in C. elegans mutants of daf-22, a gene with homology to mammalian 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolases predicted to function in conserved peroxisomal lipid β-oxidation. Two groups of ethanolamides feature β-keto functionalization confirming the predicted role of daf-22 in ascaroside biosynthesis, whereas α-methyl substitution points to unexpected inclusion of methylmalonate at a late stage in the biosynthesis of long-chain fatty acids in C. elegans. We show that ascaroside ethanolamide formation in response to defects in daf-22 and other peroxisomal genes is associated with severe depletion of endocannabinoid pools. These results indicate unexpected interaction between peroxisomal lipid β-oxidation and the biosynthesis of endocannabinoids, which are major regulators of lifespan in C. elegans. Our study demonstrates the utility of unbiased comparative metabolomics for investigating biochemical networks in metazoans.

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