MOSCOW, July 3. /TASS/. Lipids, which include fats and some other fat-like substances, were found to have undergone qualitative and quantitative transformations during evolution, with the most pronounced changes in human lipids, when compared to other mammals. Skoltech (Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology) scientists and German researchers brought this discovery to light, the Skoltech press office reported.
Lipids play an important structural and functional role in the cells of living creatures, since they are building material for cell membranes, and what’s more fats store energy. In addition, lipids transmit signals between cells, primarily in the brain. The researchers presumed that the lipid composition might provide information on the brain’s development during the course of evolution.
Skoltech scientists together with their German colleagues collaborated on a large-scale research project that focused on studying the lipid composition of six various tissues of 32 mammalian species. The data they collected demonstrated that during the course of evolution the footprint and concentration of various fats strongly vary. The most specific evolutionary changes were found in the case of humans. The researchers analyzed tissue samples taken from the cortex of cerebral hemispheres, kidneys, heart, muscles, liver, and tentorium. It turned out that changes in the lipids of humans are mostly located in the brain.
"The human-specific lipids we discovered are primarily involved in the metabolic pathways associated with cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other nervous system disorders. This implies that these lipids are essential for human cognitive function, which is what makes our species distinct from others," said Ekaterina Khrameeva, Skoltech researcher, and the study’s first author.
The results of the research project was published in the prominent scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.