Pentadecanoic and Heptadecanoic Acids: Multifaceted Odd-Chain Fatty Acids1,2

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Abstract

The odd-chain fatty acids (OCFAs) pentadecanoic acid (15:0) and heptadecanoic acid (17:0), which account for only a small proportion of total saturated fatty acids in milk fat and ruminant meat, are accepted biomarkers of dairy fat intake. However, they can also be synthesized endogenously, for example, from gut-derived propionic acid (3:0). A number of studies have shown an inverse association between OCFA concentrations in human plasma phospholipids or RBCs and risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We propose a possible involvement in metabolic regulation from the assumption that there is a link between 15:0 and 17:0 and the metabolism of other short-chain, medium-chain, and longer-chain OCFAs. The OCFAs 15:0 and 17:0 can be elongated to very-long-chain FAs (VLCFAs) such as tricosanoic acid (23:0) and pentacosanoic acid (25:0) in glycosphingolipids, particularly found in brain tissue, or can be derived from these VLCFAs. Their chains can be shortened, yielding propionyl-coenzyme A (CoA). Propionyl-CoA, by succinyl-CoA, can replenish the citric acid cycle (CAC) with anaplerotic intermediates and, thus, improve mitochondrial energy metabolism. Mitochondrial function is compromised in a number of disorders and may be impaired with increasing age. Optimizing anaplerotic intermediate availability for the CAC may help to cope with demands in times of increased metabolic stress and with aging. OCFAs may serve as substrates for synthesis of both odd-numbered VLCFAs and propionyl-CoA or store away excess propionic acid.

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