Elevated hepatic ceramide levels have been implicated in both insulin resistance (IR) and hepatic steatosis. To understand the factors contributing to hepatic ceramide levels in mice of both sexes, we have quantitated ceramides in a reference population of mice, the Hybrid Mouse Diversity Panel that has been previously characterized for a variety of metabolic syndrome traits. We observed significant positive correlations between Cer(d18:1/16:0) and IR/hepatic steatosis, consistent with previous findings, although the relationship broke down between sexes, as females were less insulin resistant, but had higher Cer(d18:1/16:0) levels than males. The sex difference was due in part to testosterone-mediated repression of ceramide synthase 6. One ceramide species, Cer(d18:1/20:0), was present at higher levels in males and was associated with IR only in males. Clear evidence of gene-by-sex and gene-by-diet interactions was observed, including sex-specific genome-wide association study results. Thus, our studies show clear differences in how hepatic ceramides are regulated between the sexes, which again suggests that the physiological roles of certain hepatic ceramides differ between the sexes.
Chemistry and Pharmacology