Clinical signs of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) are associated with changes in meibum sphingolipid composition

Vikram Paranjpe, Jeremy Tan, Jason Nguyen, John Lee, Jeremy Allegood, Anat Galor, Nawajes Mandal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose: Sphingolipids (SPL) play roles in cell signaling, inflammation, and apoptosis. Changes in SPL composition have been reported in individuals with MGD, but associations between clinical signs of MGD and compositional changes in meibum SPLs have not been examined. Methods: Forty-three individuals underwent a tear film assessment. Groups were split into those with good or poor quality meibum. Meibum was collected then analyzed with liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy to quantify SPL classes. Relative composition of SPL and major classes, Ceramide (Cer), Hexosyl-Ceramide (Hex-Cer), Sphingomyelin (SM), Sphingosine (Sph) and Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) was calculated via mole percent. Results: 22 and 21 individuals were characterized with good and poor quality meibum, respectively. Individuals with poor quality were older (60 ± 8 vs 51 ± 16 years) and more likely to be male (90% vs 64%). Relative composition analysis revealed that individuals with poor meibum quality had SPL composed of less Cer (33.36% vs 49.49%, p < 0.01), Hex-Cer (4.88% vs 9.15%, p < 0.01), and S1P (0.16% vs 0.31%, p = 0.05), and more SM (58.67% vs 38.18%, p < 0.01) and Sph (2.92% vs 2.87%, p = 0.97) compared to individuals with good quality meibum. Assessment of the ratio of Cer (pro-apoptotic) to S1P (pro-survival) showed that individuals with poor meibum quality had a relative increase in Cer (495.23 vs 282.69, p = 0.07). Conclusion: Meibum quality, a clinically graded marker of MGD, is associated with compositional changes in meibum sphingolipids. Further investigation of the structural and bioactive roles of sphingolipids in MGD may provide future targets for therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-326
Number of pages9
JournalOcular Surface
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Ceramide
  • Dry eye
  • Inflammation
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Sphingolipid
  • Sphingomyelin
  • Sphingosine 1-phosphate
  • Tear film

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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