Cpt1a gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells as an early biomarker of diet-related metabolic alterations

  • Rubén Díaz-Rúa University of the Balearic Islands
  • Andreu Palou University of the Balearic Islands
  • Paula Oliver University of the Balearic Islands
Keywords: Dietary markers, prevention markers, PBMC, high-fat diet, high-protein diet, unbalanced diets, metabolic syndrome, liver steatosis


Background: Research on biomarkers that provide early information about the development of future metabolic alterations is an emerging discipline. Gene expression analysis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) is a promising tool to identify subjects at risk of developing diet-related diseases.

Objective: We analysed PBMC expression of key energy homeostasis-related genes in a time-course analysis in order to find out early markers of metabolic alterations due to sustained intake of high-fat (HF) and high-protein (HP) diets.

Design: We administered HF and HP diets (4 months) to adult Wistar rats in isocaloric conditions to a control diet, mainly to avoid overweight associated with the intake of hyperlipidic diets and, thus, to be able to characterise markers of metabolically obese normal-weight (MONW) syndrome. PBMC samples were collected at different time points of dietary treatment and expression of relevant energy homeostatic genes analysed by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Serum parameters related with metabolic syndrome, as well as fat deposition in liver, were also analysed.

Results: The most outstanding results were those obtained for the expression of the lipolytic gene carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1a (Cpt1a). Cpt1a expression in PBMC increased after only 1 month of exposure to both unbalanced diets, and this increased expression was maintained thereafter. Interestingly, in the case of the HF diet, Cpt1a expression was altered even in the absence of increased body weight but correlated with alterations such as higher insulin resistance, alteration of serum lipid profile and, particularly, increased fat deposition in liver, a feature characteristic of metabolic syndrome, which was even observed in animals fed with HP diet.

Conclusions: We propose Cpt1a gene expression analysis in PBMC as an early biomarker of metabolic alterations associated with MONW phenotype due to the intake of isocaloric HF diets, as well as a marker of increased risk of metabolic diseases associated with the intake of HF or HP diets.

Keywords: dietary markers; prevention markers; PBMC; high-fat diet; high-protein diet; unbalanced diets; metabolic syndrome; liver steatosis

(Published: 23 November 2016)

Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2016, 60: 33554 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.33554


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Author Biographies

Andreu Palou, University of the Balearic Islands


Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Nutrition and Biotechnology

Paula Oliver, University of the Balearic Islands

Associate professor

Dept. Fundamental Biology and Health Sciences



How to Cite
Díaz-Rúa R., Palou A., & Oliver P. (2016). <em>Cpt1a</em&gt; gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells as an early biomarker of diet-related metabolic alterations. Food & Nutrition Research, 60. https://doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.33554
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