Fatty acid methyl esters are detectable in the plasma and their presence correlates with liver dysfunction

Samir Lutf Aleryani, Joanne E. Cluette-Brown, Zia A. Khan, Hasan Hasaba, Luis Lopez De Heredia, Michael Laposata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Methanol is a component of certain alcoholic beverages and is also an endogenously formed product. On this basis, we have proposed that methanol may promote synthesis of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) in the same way that ethanol promotes fatty acid ethyl ester (FAEE) synthesis. We tested the hypothesis that FAMEs appear in the blood after ethanol intake. Methods: Patient plasma samples obtained from our laboratory (n = 78) were grouped according to blood ethanol concentrations (intoxicated, blood ethanol > 800 mg/l) and non-intoxicated. These samples were further subdivided into groups based on whether the patient had normal or abnormal liver function tests (abnormal, defined as ≥ 1 abnormality of plasma alanine and aspartate aminotransferase, albumin, total bilirubin, and alkaline phosphatase). A separate set of plasma samples were also divided into normal and abnormal groups based on pancreatic function tests (amylase and lipase). There were no patients with detectable ethanol in this group. Patients with abnormalities in pancreatic function tests were included upon recognition of endogenously produced FAMEs by patients with liver function test abnormalities. FAMEs were extracted from plasma and individual species of FAMEs quantified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Results: Increased concentrations of FAME were found in patient samples with evidence of liver dysfunction, regardless of whether or not they were intoxicated (n = 21, p = 0.01). No significant differences in plasma FAME concentrations were found between patients with normal (n = 15) versus abnormal pancreatic function tests (n = 22, p = 0.72). Conclusions: The presence of FAMEs in human plasma may be related to the existence of liver disease, and not to blood ethanol concentrations or pancreatic dysfunction. The metabolic pathways associated with FAME production in patients with impaired liver function remain to be identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-149
Number of pages9
JournalClinica Chimica Acta
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Alanine aminotransferase
  • Aspartate aminotransferase
  • Fatty acid methyl esters
  • Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry
  • Liver and pancreatic dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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