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1.  N-Docosahexaenoylethanolamide promotes development of hippocampal neurons 
The Biochemical journal  2011;435(2):327-336.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, C22:6,n−3) has been shown to promote neurite growth and synaptogenesis in embryonic hippocampal neurons, supporting the importance of DHA known for hippocampus-related learning and memory function. In the present study, we demonstrate that DHA metabolism to DEA (N-docosahexaenoylethanolamide) is a significant mechanism for hippocampal neuronal development, contributing to synaptic function. We found that a fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitor URB597 potentiates DHA-induced neurite growth, synaptogenesis and synaptic protein expression. Active metabolism of DHA to DEA was observed in embryonic day 18 hippocampal neuronal cultures, which was increased further by URB597. Synthetic DEA promoted hippocampal neurite growth and synaptogenesis at substantially lower concentrations in comparison with DHA. DEA-treated neurons increased the expression of synapsins and glutamate receptor subunits and exhibited enhanced glutamatergic synaptic activity, as was the case for DHA. The DEA level in mouse fetal hippocampi was altered according to the maternal dietary supply of n−3 fatty acids, suggesting that DEA formation is a relevant in vivo process responding to the DHA status. In conclusion, DHA metabolism to DEA is a significant biochemical mechanism for neurite growth, synaptogenesis and synaptic protein expression, leading to enhanced glutamatergic synaptic function. The novel DEA-dependent mechanism offers a new molecular insight into hippocampal neurodevelopment and function.
doi:10.1042/BJ20102118
PMCID: PMC3169088  PMID: 21281269
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); N-docosahexaenoylethanolamide (DEA); hippocampus; neurite growth; neuron; synaptogenesis
2.  A synaptogenic amide N-docosahexaenoylethanolamide promotes hippocampal development 
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the n-3 essential fatty acid that is highly enriched in the brain, increases neurite growth and synaptogenesis in cultured mouse fetal hippocampal neurons. These cellular effects may underlie the DHA-induced enhancement of hippocampus-dependent learning and memory functions. We found that N-docsahexaenoylethanolamide (DEA), an ethanolamide derivative of DHA, is a potent mediator for these actions. This is supported by the observation that DHA is converted to DEA by fetal mouse hippocampal neuron cultures and a hippocampal homogenate, and DEA is present endogenously in the mouse hippocampus. Furthermore, DEA stimulates neurite growth and synaptogenesis at substantially lower concentrations than DHA, and it enhances glutamatergic synaptic activities with concomitant increases in synapsin and glutamate receptor subunit expression in the hippocampal neurons. These findings suggest that DEA, an ethanolamide derivative of DHA, is a synaptogenic factor, and therefore we suggest utilizing the term ‘synaptamide’. This brief review summarizes the neuronal production and actions of synaptamide and describes other N-docosahexaenoyl amides that are present in the brain.
doi:10.1016/j.prostaglandins.2011.07.002
PMCID: PMC3215906  PMID: 21810478
N-Docosahexaenoylethanolamide; Synaptamide; DHA; Hippocampus; Neuron; Anandamide; N-Docosahexaenoyl-amino acylamide
3.  DHA dietary supplementation enhances the effects of exercise on synaptic plasticity and cognition 
Neuroscience  2008;155(3):751-759.
Omega-3 fatty acids (i.e., docosahexaenoic acid; DHA), similar to exercise, improve cognitive function, promote neuroplasticity, and protect against neurological lesion. In this study, we investigated a possible synergistic action between DHA dietary supplementation and voluntary exercise on modulating synaptic plasticity and cognition. Rats received DHA dietary supplementation (1.25% DHA) with or without voluntary exercise for 12 days. We found that the DHA-enriched diet significantly increased spatial learning ability, and these effects were enhanced by exercise. The DHA-enriched diet increased levels of pro-BDNF and mature BDNF, whereas the additional application of exercise boosted the levels of both. Furthermore, the levels of the activated forms of CREB and synapsin I were incremented by the DHA-enriched diet with greater elevation by the concurrent application of exercise. While the DHA diet reduced hippocampal oxidized protein levels, a combination of a DHA diet and exercise resulted in a greater reduction rate. The levels of activated forms of hippocampal Akt and CaMKII were increased by the DHA-enriched diet, and with even greater elevation by a combination of diet and exercise. Akt and CaMKII signaling are crucial step by which BDNF exerts its action on synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. These results indicate that the DHA diet enhance the effects of exercise on cognition and BDNF-related synaptic plasticity, a capacity that may be used to promote mental health and reduce risk of neurological disorders.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.05.061
PMCID: PMC3208643  PMID: 18620024
DHA; exercise; BDNF; omega-3 fatty acids; cognition
4.  The Salutary Effects of DHA Dietary Supplementation on Cognition, Neuroplasticity, and Membrane Homeostasis after Brain Trauma 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2011;28(10):2113-2122.
Abstract
The pathology of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is characterized by the decreased capacity of neurons to metabolize energy and sustain synaptic function, likely resulting in cognitive and emotional disorders. Based on the broad nature of the pathology, we have assessed the potential of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to counteract the effects of concussive injury on important aspects of neuronal function and cognition. Fluid percussion injury (FPI) or sham injury was performed, and rats were then maintained on a diet high in DHA (1.2% DHA) for 12 days. We found that DHA supplementation, which elevates brain DHA content, normalized levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), synapsin I (Syn-1), cAMP-responsive element-binding protein (CREB), and calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II (CaMKII), and improved learning ability in FPI rats. It is known that BDNF facilitates synaptic transmission and learning ability by modulating Syn-I, CREB, and CaMKII signaling. The DHA diet also counteracted the FPI-reduced manganese superoxide dismutase (SOD) and Sir2 (a NAD+-dependent deacetylase). Given the involvement of SOD and Sir2 in promoting metabolic homeostasis, DHA may help the injured brain by providing resistance to oxidative stress. Furthermore, DHA normalized levels of calcium-independent phospholipase A2 (iPLA2) and syntaxin-3, which may help preserve membrane homeostasis and function after FPI. The overall results emphasize the potential of dietary DHA to counteract broad and fundamental aspects of TBI pathology that may translate into preserved cognitive capacity.
doi:10.1089/neu.2011.1872
PMCID: PMC3191367  PMID: 21851229
brain-derived neurotrophic factor; plasticity; Sir2; superoxide dismutase; traumatic brain injury
5.  Exercise contributes to the effects of DHA dietary supplementation by acting on membrane-related synaptic systems 
Brain research  2009;1341C:32-40.
Dietary omega-3 fatty acid (i.e. docosohexaenoic acid (DHA)) and exercise are gaining recognition for supporting brain function under normal and challenging conditions. Here we evaluate the possibility that the interaction of DHA and exercise can involve specific elements of the synaptic plasma membrane. We found that voluntary exercise potentiated the effects of a 12-day DHA dietary supplementation regimen on increasing the levels of syntaxin 3 (STX-3) and the growth-associated protein (GAP-43) in the adult rat hippocampus region. STX-3 is a synaptic membrane-bound protein involved in the effects of DHA on membrane expansion. The DHA diet and exercise also elevated levels of the NMDA receptor subunit NR2B, which is important for synaptic function underlying learning and memory. The actions of exercise and DHA dietary supplementation reflected on enhanced learning performance in the Morris water maze as learning ability was associated with higher levels of STX-3 and NR2B. The overall findings reveal a mechanism by which exercise can interact with the function of DHA dietary enrichment to elevate the capacity of the adult brain for axonal growth, synaptic plasticity, and cognitive function.
doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.05.018
PMCID: PMC2884051  PMID: 19446534
Omega-3 fatty acid; Voluntary exercise; Syntaxin; Synaptic membrane; Hippocampus
6.  Oral Supplementation with Docosahexaenoic Acid and Uridine-5’-Monophosphate Increases Dendritic Spine Density in Adult Gerbil Hippocampus 
Brain research  2007;1182:50-59.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, is an essential component of membrane phosphatides and has been implicated in cognitive functions. Low levels of circulating or brain DHA are associated with various neurocognitive disorders including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), while laboratory animals, including animal models of AD, can exhibit improved cognitive ability with a diet enriched in DHA. Various cellular mechanisms have been proposed for DHA’s behavioral effects, including increases in cellular membrane fluidity, promotion of neurite extension, and inhibition of apoptosis. However, there is little direct evidence that DHA affects synaptic structure in living animals. Here we show that oral supplementation with DHA substantially increases the number of dendritic spines in adult gerbil hippocampus, particularly when animals are co-supplemented with a uridine source, uridine-5’-monophosphate (UMP), which increases brain levels of the rate-limiting phosphatide precursor CTP. The increase in dendritic spines (> 30%) is accompanied by parallel increases in membrane phosphatides, and in pre- and post-synaptic proteins within the hippocampus. Hence oral DHA may promote neuronal membrane synthesis to increase the number of synapses, particularly when co-administered with UMP. Our findings provide a possible explanation for the effects of DHA on behavior and also suggest a strategy to treat cognitive disorders resulting from synapse loss.
doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.08.089
PMCID: PMC2140951  PMID: 17950710
docosahexaenoic acid; uridine; membrane synthesis; spine formation; synaptogenesis; phosphatides
7.  Synaptamide, endocannabinoid-like derivative of docosahexaenoic acid with cannabinoid-independent function 
Docosahexaenoylethanolamide, the structural analog of the endogenous cannabinoid receptor ligand anandamide, is synthesized from docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the brain. Although docosahexaenoylethanolamide binds weakly to cannabinoid receptors, it stimulates neurite growth, synaptogenesis and glutamatergic synaptic activity in developing hippocampal neurons at concentrations of 10–100 nM. We have previously proposed the term synaptamide for docosahexaenoylethanolamide to emphasize its potent synaptogenic activity and structural similarity to anandamide. Synaptamide is subjected to hydrolysis by fatty acid amide hydrolase, and can be oxygenated to bioactive metabolites. The brain synaptamide content is dependent on the dietary DHA intake, suggesting an endogenous mechanism whereby diets containing adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids improve synaptogenesis in addition to well-recognized anti-inflammatory effects.
doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2012.08.002
PMCID: PMC3541447  PMID: 22959887
Synaptamide; Synaptogenesis; Neuritogenesis; N-docosahexaenoylethanolamine; Docosahexaenoic acid; Omega-3 fatty acid; Fatty acid amide hydrolase; Endocannabinoids; Anandamide
8.  N-Docosahexaenoylethanolamine is a potent neurogenic factor for neural stem cell differentiation 
Journal of neurochemistry  2013;125(6):869-884.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has been shown to promote neuronal differentiation of neural stem cells (NSCs) in vivo and in vitro. Previously, we found that N-docosahexenoyethanolamine (synaptamide), an endogenous DHA metabolite with endocannabinoid-like structure, promotes neurite growth, synaptogenesis and synaptic function. In this study, we demonstrate that synaptamide potently induces neuronal differentiation of NSCs. Differentiating NSCs were capable of synthesizing synaptamide from DHA. Treatment of NSCs with synaptamide at low nanomolar concentrations significantly increased the number of MAP2 and Tuj-1 positive neurons with concomitant induction of PKA/CREB phosphorylation. Conversely, PKA inhibitors or PKA knockdown abolished the synaptamide-induced neuronal differentiation of NSCs. URB597, a fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitor, elevated the level of DHA-derived synaptamide and further potentiated the DHA- or synaptamide-induced neuronal differentiation of NSCs. Similarly, NSCs obtained from fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) KO mice exhibited greater capacity to induce neuronal differentiation in response to DHA or synaptamide compared to the wild type NSCs. Neither synaptamide nor DHA affected NSC differentiation into GFAP-positive glia cells. These results suggest that endogenously produced synaptamide is a potent mediator for neurogenic differentiation of NSCs acting through PKA/CREB activation.
doi:10.1111/jnc.12255
PMCID: PMC3775276  PMID: 23570577
synaptamide; neural stem cells; neurogenesis; docosahexaenoic acid; omega-3 fatty acids; PKA; CREB
9.  Effects of docosahexaenoic acid on mouse brain synaptic plasma membrane proteome analyzed by mass spectrometry and 16O/18O labeling 
Journal of proteome research  2011;10(12):5472-5480.
Docosahexenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) plays an important role in development of proper brain function in mammals. We have previously reported that DHA promotes synaptogenesis and synaptic function in hippocampal neurons while DHA-depletion in the brain due to n-3 fatty acid deficiency produces opposite effects. To gain insight into underlying molecular mechanisms, we investigated whether the brain DHA status affects the synaptic plasma membrane (SPM) proteome by using nanoLC/ESI-MS/MS and 16O/18O labeling. The DHA level in mouse brains was lowered by dietary depletion of n-3 fatty acids, and SPM was prepared by differential centrifugation followed by osmotic shock. SPM proteins from DHA-adequate and depleted brains were analyzed by nanoLC/ESI-MS/MS after SDS-PAGE, in-gel digestion and differential O18/O16 labeling. This strategy allowed comparative quantitation of more than 200 distinct membrane or membrane-associated proteins from DHA-adequate or depleted brains. We found that 18 pre- and postsynaptic proteins that are relevant to synaptic physiology were significantly down-regulated in DHA-depleted mouse brains. The protein network analysis suggests involvement of CREB and caspase-3 pathways in the DHA-dependent modulation of synaptic proteome. Reduction of specific synaptic proteins due to brain DHA-depletion may be an important mechanism for the suboptimal brain function associated with n-3 fatty acid deficiency.
doi:10.1021/pr2007285
PMCID: PMC3458425  PMID: 22003853
Synaptic plasma membrane (SPM); synaptic proteins; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); 18O labeling; nano-LC/ESI-MS/MS; brain
10.  Endogenous Signaling by Omega-3 Docosahexaenoic Acid-derived Mediators Sustains Homeostatic Synaptic and Circuitry Integrity 
Molecular Neurobiology  2011;44(2):216-222.
The harmony and function of the complex brain circuits and synapses are sustained mainly by excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission, neurotrophins, gene regulation, and factors, many of which are incompletely understood. A common feature of brain circuit components, such as dendrites, synaptic membranes, and other membranes of the nervous system, is that they are richly endowed in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the main member of the omega-3 essential fatty acid family. DHA is avidly retained and concentrated in the nervous system and known to play a role in neuroprotection, memory, and vision. Only recently has it become apparent why the surprisingly rapid increases in free (unesterified) DHA pool size take place at the onset of seizures or brain injury. This phenomenon began to be clarified by the discovery of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), the first-uncovered bioactive docosanoid formed from free DHA through 15-lipoxygenase-1 (15-LOX-1). NPD1 synthesis includes, as agonists, oxidative stress and neurotrophins. The evolving concept is that DHA-derived docosanoids set in motion endogenous signaling to sustain homeostatic synaptic and circuit integrity. NPD1 is anti-inflammatory, displays inflammatory resolving activities, and induces cell survival, which is in contrast to the pro-inflammatory actions of the many of omega-6 fatty acid family members. We highlight here studies relevant to the ability of DHA to sustain neuronal function and protect synapses and circuits in the context of DHA signalolipidomics. DHA signalolipidomics comprises the integration of the cellular/tissue mechanism of DHA uptake, its distribution among cellular compartments, the organization and function of membrane domains containing DHA phospholipids, and the precise cellular and molecular events revealed by the uncovering of signaling pathways regulated by docosanoids endowed with prohomeostatic and cell survival bioactivity. Therefore, this approach offers emerging targets for prevention, pharmaceutical intervention, and clinical translation involving DHA-mediated signaling.
doi:10.1007/s12035-011-8200-6
PMCID: PMC3180614  PMID: 21918832
Epilepsy; Neuroprotectin D1; Photoreceptors; Retinal pigment epithelial cells; Liver
11.  The influence of long chain polyunsaturate supplementation on docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid in baboon neonate central nervous system 
BMC Medicine  2005;3:11.
Background
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are major components of the cerebral cortex and visual system, where they play a critical role in neural development. We quantitatively mapped fatty acids in 26 regions of the four-week-old breastfed baboon CNS, and studied the influence of dietary DHA and ARA supplementation and prematurity on CNS DHA and ARA concentrations.
Methods
Baboons were randomized into a breastfed (B) and four formula-fed groups: term, no DHA/ARA (T-); term, DHA/ARA supplemented (T+); preterm, no DHA/ARA (P-); preterm and DHA/ARA supplemented (P+). At four weeks adjusted age, brains were dissected and total fatty acids analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.
Results
DHA and ARA are rich in many more structures than previously reported. They are most concentrated in structures local to the brain stem and diencephalon, particularly the basal ganglia, limbic regions, thalamus and midbrain, and comparatively lower in white matter. Dietary supplementation increased DHA in all structures but had little influence on ARA concentrations. Supplementation restored DHA concentrations to levels of breastfed neonates in all regions except the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. Prematurity per se did not exert a strong influence on DHA or ARA concentrations.
Conclusion
1) DHA and ARA are found in high concentration throughout the primate CNS, particularly in gray matter such as basal ganglia; 2) DHA concentrations drop across most CNS structures in neonates consuming formulas with no DHA, but ARA levels are relatively immune to ARA in the diet; 3) supplementation of infant formula is effective at restoring DHA concentration in structures other than the cerebral cortex. These results will be useful as a guide to future investigations of CNS function in the absence of dietary DHA and ARA.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-3-11
PMCID: PMC1184078  PMID: 15975147
12.  ω-3 Fatty Acids in the Prevention of Cognitive Decline in Humans123 
Advances in Nutrition  2013;4(6):672-676.
The brain is a lipid-rich organ where docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is enriched and where eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may have anti-inflammatory effects. The potential role for n–3 (ω-3) fatty acids such as DHA and EPA in the prevention of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has attracted major interest for the past 20 y. This review presents our understanding of recent observational, interventional, and experimental studies, with the aim of providing some answers to the following question: Can n–3 FA intake modulate cognitive function during aging? In longitudinal observation studies we mainly observe inverse relations between fish intake or serum concentrations of DHA and cognitive impairment. Intervention studies of EPA and DHA supplementation in healthy old individuals have been negative so far (i.e., after up to 2 years of treatment, no differences in cognitive decline between treated and nontreated participants have been observed). In studies that provided EPA and DHA to adults with mild cognitive impairment or age-related cognitive impairment the data seem to be positive. However, when patients with established AD were supplemented with EPA and DHA it appears no benefit was gained. For studies on healthy individuals, a major concern is that the treatment periods may have been too short. There might also be subgroup effects because of the carriage of apolipoprotein Eε4 alleles or risk factor burden. Experimental studies appear to be consistently positive (i.e., n–3 FA supplementation in rodents over a substantial portion of their lives reduces amyloid-β deposition and hippocampal neuron loss and improves cognitive functioning). We are getting closer to providing evidence-based recommendations on fish and fish oil intake to facilitate memory function during old age. In the meantime it is advised to follow the general CDC dietary recommendations of 2–3 fish meals per week or the equivalent intake of long chain n–3 fatty acids, particularly DHA.
doi:10.3945/an.113.004556
PMCID: PMC3823515  PMID: 24228198
13.  Effects of Docosahexaenoic Acid on Neurotransmission 
Biomolecules & Therapeutics  2012;20(2):152-157.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) in the brain and a structural component of neuronal membranes. Changes in DHA content of neuronal membranes lead to functional changes in the activity of receptors and other proteins which might be associated with synaptic function. Accumulating evidence suggests the beneficial effects of dietary DHA supplementation on neurotransmission. This article reviews the beneficial effects of DHA on the brain; uptake, incorporation and release of DHA at synapses, effects of DHA on synapses, effects of DHA on neurotransmitters, DHA metabolites, and changes in DHA with age. Further studies to better understand the metabolome of DHA could result in more effective use of this molecule for treatment of neurodegenerative or neuropsychiatric diseases.
doi:10.4062/biomolther.2012.20.2.152
PMCID: PMC3792211  PMID: 24116288
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA); Neurodegeneration; Depression; Anti-nociception
14.  A cross-sectional study of docosahexaenoic acid status and cognitive outcomes in females of reproductive age with phenylketonuria 
Diet therapy for phenylketonuria (PKU) requires restricted phenylalanine (Phe) intake, with the majority of protein and other nutrients coming from synthetic medical food. The fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important in brain development and function; however, there are reports of low blood DHA concentrations in people treated for PKU. Although the implications of this low blood DHA are unclear, subtle cognitive deficits have been reported in those treated early and continuously for PKU. For this study, we investigated the relationship between DHA status and cognitive performance in 41 females 12 years and older with PKU. Participants were attending the baseline visit of a research-based camp or a supplementation trial. We assessed the domains of verbal ability, processing speed, and executive function using standardized tests, and the proportions of DHA in plasma and red blood cell (RBC) total lipids using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Percent plasma and RBC total lipid DHA were significantly lower in the participants compared with laboratory controls (P < .001), and participants consumed no appreciable DHA according to diet records. Plasma and RBC DHA both negatively correlated with plasma Phe (P < .02), and performance on the verbal ability task positively correlated with RBC DHA controlling for plasma Phe (R=.32, P=.03). The relationship between DHA and domains related to verbal ability, such as learning and memory, should be confirmed in a controlled trial. Domains of processing speed and executive function may require a larger sample size to clarify any association with DHA.
doi:10.1007/s10545-011-9277-9
PMCID: PMC4227302  PMID: 21305356
15.  The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with Learning and Behavior in Healthy Children: A Review 
Nutrients  2013;5(7):2777-2810.
Childhood is a period of brain growth and maturation. The long chain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is a major lipid in the brain recognized as essential for normal brain function. In animals, low brain DHA results in impaired learning and behavior. In infants, DHA is important for optimal visual and cognitive development. The usual intake of DHA among toddlers and children is low and some studies show improvements in cognition and behavior as the result of supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids including DHA. The purpose of this review was to identify and evaluate current knowledge regarding the relationship of DHA with measures of learning and behavior in healthy school-age children. A systematic search of the literature identified 15 relevant publications for review. The search found studies which were diverse in purpose and design and without consistent conclusions regarding the treatment effect of DHA intake or biomarker status on specific cognitive tests. However, studies of brain activity reported benefits of DHA supplementation and over half of the studies reported a favorable role for DHA or long chain omega-3 fatty acids in at least one area of cognition or behavior. Studies also suggested an important role for DHA in school performance.
doi:10.3390/nu5072777
PMCID: PMC3738999  PMID: 23877090
docosahexaenoic acid; children; learning; behavior; school performance
16.  Expression of E-FABP in PC12 cells increases neurite extension during differentiation: involvement of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids 
Journal of neurochemistry  2008;106(5):2015-2029.
Epidermal fatty acid-binding protein (E-FABP), a member of the family of FABPs, exhibits a robust expression in neurons during axonal growth in development and in nerve regeneration following nerve injury. This study examines the impact of E-FABP expression in normal neurite extension in differentiating pheochromocytoma cell (PC12) cultures supplemented with selected long chain free fatty acids (LCFFA). We found that E-FABP binds to a broad range of saturated and unsaturated LCFFAs, including those with potential interest for neuronal differentiation and axonal growth such as C22:6n-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), C20:5n-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and C20:4n-6 arachidonic acid (ARA). PC12 cells exposed to nerve growth factor (NGFDPC12) exhibit high E-FABP expression that is blocked by mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitor U0126. Nerve growth factor-differentiated pheochromocytoma cells (NGFDPC12) antisense clones (NGFDPC12-AS) which exhibit low E-FABP expression have fewer/shorter neurites than cells transfected with vector only or NGFDPC12 sense cells (NGFDPC12-S). Replenishing NGFDPC12-AS cells with biotinylated recombinant E-FABP (biotin-E-FABP) protein restores normal neurite outgrowth. Cellular localization of biotin-E-FABP in NGFDPC12 was detected mostly in the cytoplasm and in the nuclear region. Treatment of NGFDPC12 with DHA, EPA, or ARA further enhances neurite length but it does not trigger further induction of TrkA or MEK phosphorylation or E-FABP mRNA observed in differentiating PC12 cells without LCFFA supplementation. Significantly, DHA and EPA neurite stimulating effects are higher in NGFDPC12-S than in NGFDPC12-AS cells. These findings are consistent with the scenario that neurite extension of differentiating PC12 cells, including further stimulation by DHA and EPA, requires sufficient cellular levels of E-FABP.
doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05507.x
PMCID: PMC2785489  PMID: 18513372
C20:5n-3 eicosapentaenoic acid; C22:6n-3 docosahexaenoic acid; epidermal fatty acid-binding protein; fatty acid binding; n-3/n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids; neuronal differentiation
17.  Dysregulation of BDNF-TrkB Signaling in Developing Hippocampal Neurons by Pb2+: Implications for an Environmental Basis of Neurodevelopmental Disorders 
Toxicological Sciences  2012;127(1):277-295.
Dysregulation of synaptic development and function has been implicated in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders and mental disease. A neurotrophin that has an important function in neuronal and synaptic development is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In this communication, we examined the effects of lead (Pb2+) exposure on BDNF-tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB) signaling during the period of synaptogenesis in cultured neurons derived from embryonic rat hippocampi. We show that Pb2+ exposure decreases BDNF gene and protein expression, and it may also alter the transport of BDNF vesicles to sites of release by altering Huntingtin phosphorylation and protein levels. Combined, these effects of Pb2+ resulted in decreased concentrations of extracellular mature BDNF. The effect of Pb2+ on BDNF gene expression was associated with a specific decrease in calcium-sensitive exon IV transcript levels and reduced phosphorylation and protein expression of the transcriptional repressor methyl-CpG–binding protein (MeCP2). TrkB protein levels and autophosphorylation at tyrosine 816 were significantly decreased by Pb2+ exposure with a concomitant increase in p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) levels and altered TrkB-p75NTR colocalization. Finally, phosphorylation of Synapsin I, a presynaptic target of BDNF-TrkB signaling, was significantly decreased by Pb2+ exposure with no effect on total Synapsin I protein levels. This effect of Pb2+ exposure on Synapsin I phosphorylation may help explain the impairment in vesicular release documented by us previously (Neal, A. P., Stansfield, K. H., Worley, P. F., Thompson, R. E., and Guilarte, T. R. (2010). Lead exposure during synaptogenesis alters vesicular proteins and impairs vesicular release: Potential role of N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) dependent BDNF signaling. Toxicol. Sci. 116, 249–263) because it controls vesicle movement from the reserve pool to the readily releasable pool. In summary, the present study demonstrates that Pb2+ exposure during the period of synaptogenesis of hippocampal neurons in culture disrupts multiple synaptic processes regulated by BDNF-TrkB signaling with long-term consequences for synaptic function and neuronal development.
doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfs090
PMCID: PMC3327871  PMID: 22345308
BDNF; TrkB; p75NTR; MeCP2; epigenetics; Huntingtin; Synapsin I; phosphorylation; Pb2+; hippocampus; neuron; synaptogenesis
18.  Phosphatidylserine-dependent neuroprotective signaling promoted by docosahexaenoic acid 
Enrichment of polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n–3), in the brain is known to be critical for optimal brain development and function. Mechanisms for DHA’s beneficial effects in the nervous system are not clearly understood at present. DHA is incorporated into the phospholipids in neuronal membranes, which in turn can influence not only the membrane chemical and physical properties but also the cell signaling involved in neuronal survival, proliferation and differentiation. Our studies have indicated that DHA supplementation promotes phosphatidylserine (PS) accumulation and inhibits neuronal cell death under challenged conditions, supporting a notion that DHA is an important neuroprotective agent. This article summarizes our findings on the DHA-mediated membrane-related signaling mechanisms that might explain some of the beneficial effects of DHA, particularly on neuronal survival.
doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2010.02.025
PMCID: PMC3383770  PMID: 20207120
19.  Effect of fish oils containing different amounts of EPA, DHA, and antioxidants on plasma and brain fatty acids and brain nitric oxide synthase activity in rats 
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences  2009;114(4):206-213.
Background
The interest in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) has expanded significantly in the last few years, due to their many positive effects described. Consequently, the interest in fish oil supplementation has also increased, and many different types of fish oil supplements can be found on the market. Also, it is well known that these types of fatty acids are very easily oxidized, and that stability among supplements varies greatly.
Aims of the study
In this pilot study we investigated the effects of two different types of natural fish oils containing different amounts of the n-3 PUFAs eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and antioxidants on plasma and brain fatty acids, blood lipids, vitamin E, and in vivo lipid peroxidation, as well as brain nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity, an enzyme which has been shown to be important for memory and learning ability.
Methods
Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into four groups and fed regular rat chow pellets enriched with 5% (w/w) of butter (control group), a natural fish oil (17.4% EPA and 11.7% DHA, referred to as EPA-rich), and a natural fish oil rich in DHA (7.7% EPA and 28.0% DHA, referred to as DHA-rich). Both of the fish oils were stabilized by a commercial antioxidant protection system (Pufanox®) at production. The fourth group received the same DHA-rich oil, but without Pufanox® stabilization (referred to as unstable). As an index of stability of the oils, their peroxide values were repeatedly measured during 9 weeks. The dietary treatments continued until sacrifice, after 10 days.
Results
Stability of the oils varied greatly. It took the two stabilized oils 9 weeks to reach the same peroxide value as the unstable oil reached after only a few days. Both the stabilized EPA- and DHA-rich diets lowered the triacylglycerols and total cholesterol compared to control (-45%, P < 0.05 and -54%, P < 0.001; -31%, P < 0.05 and -25%, P < 0.01) and so did the unstable oil, but less efficiently. Only the unstable oil increased in vivo lipid peroxidation significantly compared to control (+40%, P < 0.001). Most of the fatty acids in the plasma phospholipids were significantly affected by both the EPA- and DHA-rich diets compared to control, reflecting their specific fatty acid pattern. The unstable oil diet resulted in smaller changes, especially in n-3 PUFAs. In the brain phospholipids the changes were less pronounced, and only the diet enriched with the stabilized DHA-rich oil resulted in a significantly greater incorporation of DHA (+13%, P < 0.01), as well as total n-3 PUFAs (+13%, P < 0.01) compared to control. Only the stabilized DHA-rich oil increased the brain NOS activity (+33%, P < 0.01).
Conclusions
Both the EPA- and DHA-rich diets affected the blood lipids in a similarly positive manner, and they both had a large impact on plasma phospholipid fatty acids. It was only the unstable oil that increased in vivo lipid peroxidation. However, the intake of DHA was more important than that of EPA for brain phospholipid DHA enrichment and brain NOS activity, and the stability of the fish oil was also important for these effects.
doi:10.3109/03009730903268958
PMCID: PMC2852776  PMID: 19961266
Antioxidants; brain; DHA; EPA; fish oil; lipid peroxidation; nitric oxide synthase
20.  Synapse Formation and Cognitive Brain Development: effect of docosahexaenoic (DHA) and other dietary constituents 
Metabolism: clinical and experimental  2008;57(Suppl 2):S6-10.
The brain is unusual among organs in that the rates of many of its characteristic enzymatic reactions are controlled by the local concentrations of their substrates, which also happen to be nutrients that cross the blood-brain barrier. Thus, for example, brain levels of tryptophan, tyrosine, or choline can control the rates at which neurons synthesize serotonin, dopamine, or acetylcholine, respectively. The rates at which brain cells produce membrane phospholipids like phosphatidylcholine (PC) are also under such control, both in adult animals and, especially, during early development. If pregnant rats are fed the three dietary constituents needed for PC synthesis - docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), uridine, and choline - starting 10 days before parturition and continuing for 20 days during nursing, brain levels of PC and of the other membrane phosphatides (per cell or per mg protein) are increased by 50% or more. In adult animals this treatment is also known to increase synaptic proteins (e.g. synapsin-l; syntaxin-3; GluR-l; PSD-95) but not ubiquitous proteins like beta-tubulin, and to increase (by 30% or more) the number of dendritic spines on hippocampal neurons. DHA currently is widely used, in human infants, to diminish the negative effects of prematurity on cognitive development. Moreover, DHA, uridine (as UMP), and choline are all found in mother's milk, and included in most infant formulas. It is proposed that these substances are part of a regulatory mechanism through which plasma composition influences brain development.
doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2008.07.007
PMCID: PMC2578826  PMID: 18803968
omega-3 fatty acids; phosphatidylcholine; uridine; arachidonic acid; phosphatidylcholine
21.  Facilitation of AMPA Receptor Synaptic Delivery as a Molecular Mechanism for Cognitive Enhancement 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(2):e1001262.
A small peptide from a neuronal cell adhesion molecule enhances synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and results in improved cognitive performance in rats.
Cell adhesion molecules and downstream growth factor-dependent signaling are critical for brain development and synaptic plasticity, and they have been linked to cognitive function in adult animals. We have previously developed a mimetic peptide (FGL) from the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) that enhances spatial learning and memory in rats. We have now investigated the cellular and molecular basis of this cognitive enhancement, using biochemical, morphological, electrophysiological, and behavioral analyses. We have found that FGL triggers a long-lasting enhancement of synaptic transmission in hippocampal CA1 neurons. This effect is mediated by a facilitated synaptic delivery of AMPA receptors, which is accompanied by enhanced NMDA receptor-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP). Both LTP and cognitive enhancement are mediated by an initial PKC activation, which is followed by persistent CaMKII activation. These results provide a mechanistic link between facilitation of AMPA receptor synaptic delivery and improved hippocampal-dependent learning, induced by a pharmacological cognitive enhancer.
Author Summary
The human brain contains trillions of neuronal connections, called synapses, whose pattern of activity controls all our cognitive functions. These synaptic connections are dynamic and constantly changing in their strength and properties, and this process of synaptic plasticity is essential for learning and memory. Alterations in synaptic plasticity mechanisms are thought to be responsible for multiple cognitive deficits, such as autism, Alzheimer's disease, and several forms of mental retardation. In this study, we show that synapses can be made more plastic using a small protein fragment (peptide) derived from a neuronal protein involved in cell-to-cell communication. This peptide (FGL) initiates a cascade of events inside the neuron that results in the facilitation of synaptic plasticity. Specifically, we find that FGL triggers delivery of a specific type of glutamate receptor (AMPA receptors) to synapses in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is known to be involved in multiple forms of learning and memory. Importantly, when this peptide was administered to rats, their ability to learn and retain spatial information was enhanced. Therefore, this work demonstrates that cognitive function can be improved pharmacologically in adult animals by enhancing the plasticity of synaptic connections in the brain.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001262
PMCID: PMC3283560  PMID: 22363206
22.  Docosahexaenoic Acid Signaling Modulates Cell Survival in Experimental Ischemic Stroke Penumbra and Initiates Long-Term Repair in Young and Aged Rats 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46151.
Background
Docosahexaenoic acid, a major omega-3 essential fatty acid family member, improves behavioral deficit and reduces infarct volume and edema after experimental focal cerebral ischemia. We hypothesize that DHA elicits neuroprotection by inducing AKT/p70S6K phosphorylation, which in turn leads to cell survival and protects against ischemic stroke in young and aged rats.
Methods and Results
Rats underwent 2 h of middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo). DHA, neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1) or vehicle (saline) was administered 3 h after onset of stroke. Neurological function was evaluated on days 1, 2, 3, and 7. DHA treatment improved functional recovery and reduced cortical, subcortical and total infarct volumes 7 days after stroke. DHA also reduced microglia infiltration and increased the number of astrocytes and neurons when compared to vehicle on days 1 and 7. Increases in p473 AKT and p308 AKT phosphorylation/activation were observed in animals treated with DHA 4 h after MCAo. Activation of other members of the AKT signaling pathway were also observed in DHA treated animals including increases in pS6 at 4 h and pGSK at 24 h. DHA or NPD1 remarkably reduced total and cortical infarct in aged rats. Moreover, we show that in young and aged rats DHA treatment after MCAo potentiates NPD1 biosynthesis. The phosphorylation of p308 AKT or pGSK was not different between groups in aged rats. However, pS6 expression was increased with DHA or NPD1 treatment when compared to vehicle.
Conclusions
We suggest that DHA induces cell survival, modulates the neuroinflammatory response and triggers long term restoration of synaptic circuits. Both DHA and NPD1 elicited remarkable protection in aged animals. Accordingly, activation of DHA signaling might provide benefits in the management of ischemic stroke both acutely as well as long term to limit ensuing disabilities.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046151
PMCID: PMC3484151  PMID: 23118851
23.  Activation of the omega-3 fatty acid receptor GPR120 mediates anti-inflammatory actions in immortalized hypothalamic neurons 
Background
Overnutrition and the ensuing hypothalamic inflammation is a major perpetuating factor in the development of metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. Inflamed neurons of the CNS fail to properly regulate energy homeostasis leading to pathogenic changes in glucose handling, feeding, and body weight. Hypothalamic neurons are particularly sensitive to pro-inflammatory signals derived locally and peripherally, and it is these neurons that become inflamed first upon high fat feeding. Given the prevalence of metabolic disease, efforts are underway to identify therapeutic targets for this inflammatory state. At least in the periphery, omega-3 fatty acids and their receptor, G-protein coupled receptor 120 (GPR120), have emerged as putative targets. The role for GPR120 in the hypothalamus or CNS in general is poorly understood.
Methods
Here we introduce a novel, immortalized cell model derived from the rat hypothalamus, rHypoE-7, to study GPR120 activation at the level of the individual neuron. Gene expression levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines were studied by quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR (qRT-PCR) upon exposure to tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) treatment in the presence or absence of the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Signal transduction pathway involvement was also studied using phospho-specific antibodies to key proteins by western blot analysis.
Results
Importantly, rHypoE-7 cells exhibit a transcriptional and translational inflammatory response upon exposure to TNFα and express abundant levels of GPR120, which is functionally responsive to DHA. DHA pretreatment prevents the inflammatory state and this effect was inhibited by the reduction of endogenous GPR120 levels. GPR120 activates both AKT (protein kinase b) and ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase); however, the anti-inflammatory action of this omega-3 fatty acid (FA) receptor is AKT- and ERK-independent and likely involves the GPR120-transforming growth factor-β-activated kinase 1 binding protein (TAB1) interaction as identified in the periphery.
Conclusions
Taken together, GPR120 is functionally active in the hypothalamic neuronal line, rHypoE-7, wherein it mediates the anti-inflammatory actions of DHA to reduce the inflammatory response to TNFα.
doi:10.1186/1742-2094-11-60
PMCID: PMC3986641  PMID: 24674717
Inflammation; Hypothalamus; Signal transduction; Neuronal cell line; Tumor necrosis factor α; Docosahexaenoic acid
24.  NMDA Receptor Subunits in the Adult Rat Hippocampus Undergo Similar Changes after 5 Minutes in an Open Field and after LTP Induction 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55244.
NMDA receptor subunits change during development and their synaptic expression is modified rapidly after synaptic plasticity induction in hippocampal slices. However, there is scarce information on subunits expression after synaptic plasticity induction or memory acquisition, particularly in adults. GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B NMDA receptor subunits were assessed by western blot in 1) adult rats that had explored an open field (OF) for 5 minutes, a time sufficient to induce habituation, 2) mature rat hippocampal neuron cultures depolarized by KCl and 3) hippocampal slices from adult rats where long term potentiation (LTP) was induced by theta-burst stimulation (TBS). GluN1 and GluN2A, though not GluN2B, were significantly higher 70 minutes –but not 30 minutes- after a 5 minutes session in an OF. GluN1 and GluN2A total immunofluorescence and puncta in neurites increased in cultures, as evaluated 70 minutes after KCl stimulation. Similar changes were found in hippocampal slices 70 minutes after LTP induction. To start to explore underlying mechanisms, hippocampal slices were treated either with cycloheximide (a translation inhibitor) or actinomycin D (a transcription inhibitor) during electrophysiological assays. It was corroborated that translation was necessary for LTP induction and expression. The rise in GluN1 depends on transcription and translation, while the increase in GluN2A appears to mainly depend on translation, though a contribution of some remaining transcriptional activity during actinomycin D treatment could not be rouled out. LTP effective induction was required for the subunits to increase. Although in the three models same subunits suffered modifications in the same direction, within an apparently similar temporal course, further investigation is required to reveal if they are related processes and to find out whether they are causally related with synaptic plasticity, learning and memory.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055244
PMCID: PMC3562335  PMID: 23383317
25.  A synergistic antiproliferation effect of curcumin and docosahexaenoic acid in SK-BR-3 breast cancer cells: unique signaling not explained by the effects of either compound alone 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:149.
Background
Breast cancer is a collection of diseases in which molecular phenotypes can act as both indicators and mediators of therapeutic strategy. Therefore, candidate therapeutics must be assessed in the context of multiple cell lines with known molecular phenotypes. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and curcumin (CCM) are dietary compounds known to antagonize breast cancer cell proliferation. We report that these compounds in combination exert a variable antiproliferative effect across multiple breast cell lines, which is synergistic in SK-BR-3 cells and triggers cell signaling events not predicted by the activity of either compound alone.
Methods
Dose response curves for CCM and DHA were generated for five breast cell lines. Effects of the DHA+ CCM combination on cell proliferation were evaluated using varying concentrations, at a fixed ratio, of CCM and DHA based on their individual ED50. Detection of synergy was performed using nonlinear regression of a sigmoid dose response model and Combination Index approaches. Cell molecular network responses were investigated through whole genome microarray analysis of transcript level changes. Gene expression results were validated by RT-PCR, and western blot analysis was performed for potential signaling mediators. Cellular curcumin uptake, with and without DHA, was analyzed via flow cytometry and HPLC.
Results
CCM+DHA had an antiproliferative effect in SK-BR-3, MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-361, MCF7 and MCF10AT cells. The effect was synergistic for SK-BR-3 (ER- PR- Her2+) relative to the two compounds individually. A whole genome microarray approach was used to investigate changes in gene expression for the synergistic effects of CCM+DHA in SK-BR-3 cells lines. CCM+DHA triggered transcript-level responses, in disease-relevant functional categories, that were largely non-overlapping with changes caused by CCM or DHA individually. Genes involved in cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, inhibition of metastasis, and cell adhesion were upregulated, whereas genes involved in cancer development and progression, metastasis, and cell cycle progression were downregulated. Cellular pools of PPARγ and phospho-p53 were increased by CCM+DHA relative to either compound alone. DHA enhanced cellular uptake of CCM in SK-BR-3 cells without significantly enhancing CCM uptake in other cell lines.
Conclusions
The combination of DHA and CCM is potentially a dietary supplemental treatment for some breast cancers, likely dependent upon molecular phenotype. DHA enhancement of cellular curcumin uptake is one potential mechanism for observed synergy in SK-BR-3 cells; however, transcriptomic data show that the antiproliferation synergy accompanies many signaling events unique to the combined presence of the two compounds.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-149
PMCID: PMC3111403  PMID: 21510869

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