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1.  Brain metabolism of nutritionally essential polyunsaturated fatty acids depends on both the diet and the liver 
Plasma α-linolenic acid (α-LNA, 18:3n-3) or linoleic acid (LA, 18:2n-6) does not contribute significantly to the brain content of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) or arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6), respectively, and neither DHA nor AA can be synthesized de novo in vertebrate tissue. Therefore, measured rates of incorporation of circulating DHA or AA into brain exactly represent the rates of consumption by brain. Positron emission tomography (PET) has been used to show, based on this information, that the adult human brain consumes AA and DHA at rates of 17.8 and 4.6 mg/day, respectively, and that AA consumption does not change significantly with age. In unanesthetized adult rats fed an n-3 PUFA “adequate” diet containing 4.6% α-LNA (of total fatty acids) as its only n-3 PUFA, the rate of liver synthesis of DHA is more than sufficient to replace maintain brain DHA, whereas the brain’s rate of synthesis is very low and unable to do so. Reducing dietary α-LNA in an DHA-free diet fed to rats leads to upregulation of liver coefficients of α-LNA conversion to DHA and of liver expression of elongases and desaturases that catalyze this conversion. Concurrently, the brain DHA loss slows due to downregulation of several of its DHA-metabolizing enzymes. Dietary α-LNA deficiency also promotes accumulation of brain docosapentaenoic acid (22:5n-6), and upregulates expression of AA-metabolizing enzymes, including cytosolic and secretory phospholipase A2 and cyclooxygenase-2. These changes, plus reduced levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), likely render the brain more vulnerable to neuropathological insults.
PMCID: PMC2725409  PMID: 18060754
docosahexaenoic acid; liver; brain; rat; n-3 PUFAs; imaging; metabolism; phospholipase A2; BDNF; diet; arachidonic acid
Dietary requirements for maintaining brain and heart docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) homeostasis are not agreed on, in part because rates of liver DHA synthesis from circulating α-linolenic acid (α-LNA, 18:2n-3) have not been quantified. These rates can be estimated in vivo using intravenous radiotracer- or heavy isotope-labeled α-LNA infusion. In adult unanesthetized male rats, such infusion shows that liver synthesis-secretion rates of DHA from α-LNA markedly exceed brain and heart DHA synthesis rates and brain DHA consumption rate, and that liver but not heart or brain synthesis is upregulated as dietary n-3 PUFA content is reduced. These differences in rate reflect much higher expression of DHA-synthesizing enzymes in liver, and upregulation of liver but not heart or brain enzyme expression by reduced dietary n-3 PUFA content. A noninvasive intravenous [U-13C]α-LNA infusion method that produces steady-state liver tracer metabolism gives exact liver DHA synthesis-secretion rates and could be extended for human studies.
PMCID: PMC2867061  PMID: 20226642
secretion; synthesis; docosahexaenoic acid; α-linolenic acid; kinetics; liver; brain; heart; rat; PUFA; n-3
3.  RETRACTED ARTICLE: Aging decreases rate of docosahexaenoic acid synthesis-secretion from circulating unesterified α-linolenic acid by rat liver 
Age  2012;35(3):597-608.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3), an n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) found at high concentrations in brain and retina and critical to their function, can be obtained from fish products or be synthesized from circulating α-linolenic acid (α-LNA, 18:3n-3) mainly in the liver. With aging, liver synthetic enzymes are reported reduced or unchanged in the rat. To test whether liver synthesis-secretion of DHA from α-LNA changes with age, we measured whole-body DHA conversion coefficients and rates in unanesthetized adult male Fischer-344 rats aged 10, 20, or 30 months, fed an eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3)- and DHA-containing diet. Unesterified [U- 13 C]α-LNA bound to albumin was infused intravenously for 2 h, while [13 C]-esterified n-3 PUFAs were measured in arterial plasma, as were unlabeled unesterified and esterified PUFA concentrations. Plasma unesterified n-3 PUFA concentrations declined with age, but esterified n-3 PUFA concentrations did not change significantly. Calculated conversion coefficients were not changed significantly with age, whereas synthesis-secretion rates (product of conversion coefficient and unesterified plasma α-LNA concentration) of esterified DHA and n-3 DPA were reduced. Turnovers of esterified n-3 PUFAs in plasma decreased with age, whereas half-lives increased. The results suggest that hepatic capacity to synthesize DHA and other n-3 PUFAs from circulating α-LNA is maintained with age in the rat, but that reduced plasma α-LNA availability reduces net synthesis-secretion. As unesterified plasma DHA is the form that is incorporated preferentially into brain phospholipid, its reduced synthesis may be deleterious to brain function in aged rats.
PMCID: PMC3636395  PMID: 22388930
Liver; Synthesis-secretion rate; Conversion; Aging; Age; Metabolism; Alpha-linolenic acid; n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs); Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); Lipid
Journal of Neurochemistry  2012;120(6):985-997.
Dietary n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) deprivation in rodents reduces brain arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) concentration and 20:4n-6-preferring cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2-IVA) and cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 expression, while increasing brain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) concentration and DHA-selective Ca2+-independent iPLA2-VIA expression. We hypothesized that these changes are accompanied by upregulated brain DHA metabolic rates. Using a fatty acid model, brain DHA concentrations and kinetics were measured in unanesthetized male rats fed, for 15 weeks post-weaning, an n-6 PUFA “adequate” (31.4 wt% linoleic acid) or “deficient” (2.7 wt% linoleic acid) diet, each lacking 20:4n-6 and DHA. [1-14C]DHA was infused intravenously, arterial blood was sampled, and the brain was microwaved at 5 min and analyzed. Rats fed the n-6 PUFA deficient compared with adequate diet had significantly reduced n-6 PUFA concentrations in brain phospholipids but increased eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3), docosapentaenoic acidn-3 (DPAn-3, 22:5n-3) and DHA (by 9.4%) concentrations, particularly in ethanolamine glycerophospholipid. Incorporation rates of unesterified DHA from plasma, which represent DHA metabolic loss from brain, were increased 45% in brain phospholipids, as was DHA turnover. Increased DHA metabolism following dietary n-6 PUFA deprivation may increase brain concentrations of antiinflammatory DHA metabolites, which with a reduced brain n-6 PUFA content, likely promote neuroprotection. (199 words)
PMCID: PMC3296886  PMID: 22117540
linoleic acid; arachidonic PUFA; diet; turnover; metabolism; docosahexaenoic; kinetics; brain; alpha-linolenic; rat
5.  Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) Incorporation into the Brain from Plasma, as an In Vivo Biomarker of Brain DHA Metabolism and Neurotransmission 
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is critical for maintaining normal brain structure and function, and is considered neuroprotective. Its brain concentration depends on dietary DHA content and hepatic conversion from its dietary derived n-3 precursor, α-linolenic acid (α-LNA). We have developed an in vivo method in rats using quantitative autoradiography and intravenously injected radiolabeled DHA to image net incorporation into the brain of unesterified plasma DHA, and showed with this method that the incorporation rate of DHA equals the rate of brain metabolic DHA consumption. The method has been extended for use in humans with positron emission tomography (PET). Furthermore, imaging in unanesthetized rats using DHA incorporation as a biomarker in response to acute N-methyl-D-aspartate administration confirms that regional DHA signaling is independent of extracellular calcium, and likely mediated by a calcium-independent phospholipase A2 (iPLA2). Studies in mice in which iPLA2-VIA (β) was knocked out confirmed that this enzyme is critical for baseline and muscarinic cholinergic signaling involving DHA. Thus, quantitative imaging of DHA incorporation from plasma into brain can be used as an in vivo biomarker of brain DHA metabolism and neurotransmission.
PMCID: PMC3202024  PMID: 21704722
docosahexaenoic acid; PLA2; biomarker; imaging; calcium; PET
6.  Regulation of Tissue LC-PUFA Contents, Δ6 Fatty Acyl Desaturase (FADS2) Gene Expression and the Methylation of the Putative FADS2 Gene Promoter by Different Dietary Fatty Acid Profiles in Japanese Seabass (Lateolabrax japonicus) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87726.
The present study was conducted to evaluate the influences of different dietary fatty acid profiles on the tissue content and biosynthesis of LC-PUFA in a euryhaline species Japanese seabass reared in seawater. Six diets were prepared, each with a characteristic fatty acid: Diet PA: Palmitic acid (C16:0); Diet SA: Stearic acid (C18:0); Diet OA: Oleic acid (C18:1n-9); Diet LNA: α-linolenic acid (C18:3n-3); Diet N-3 LC-PUFA: n-3 LC-PUFA (DHA+EPA); Diet FO: the fish oil control. A 10-week feeding trial was conducted using juvenile fish (29.53±0.86 g). The results showed that Japanese seabass had limited capacity to synthesize LC-PUFA and fish fed PA, SA, OA and LNA showed significantly lower tissue n-3 LC-PUFA contents compared to fish fed N-3 LC-PUFA and FO. The putative gene promoter and full-length cDNA of FADS2 was cloned and characterized. The protein sequence was confirmed to be homologous to FADS2s of marine teleosts and possessed all the characteristic features of microsomal fatty acid desaturases. The FADS2 transcript levels in liver of fish fed N-3 LC-PUFA and FO were significantly lower than those in fish fed other diets except LNA while Diet PA significantly up-regulated the FADS2 gene expression compared to Diet LNA, N-3 LC-PUFA and FO. Inversely, fish fed N-3 LC-PUFA and FO showed significantly higher promoter methylation rates of FADS2 gene compared to fish fed the LC-PUFA deficient diets. These results suggested that Japanese seabass had low LC-PUFA synthesis capacity and LC-PUFA deficient diets caused significantly reduced tissue n-3 LC-PUFA contents. The liver gene expression of FADS2 was up-regulated in groups enriched in C16:0, C18:0 and C18:1n-9 respectively but not in the group enriched in C18:3n-3 compared to groups with high n-3 LC-PUFA contents. The FADS2 gene expression regulated by dietary fatty acids was significantly negatively correlated with the methylation rate of putative FADS2 gene promoter.
PMCID: PMC3909213  PMID: 24498178
7.  Fifteen weeks of dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid deprivation increases turnover of n-6 docosapentaenoic acid in rat-brain phospholipids 
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta  2011;1821(9):1235-1243.
Docosapentaenoic acid (DPAn-6, 22:5n-6) is an n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) whose brain concentration can be increased in rodents by dietary n-3 PUFA deficiency, which may contribute to their behavioral dysfunction. We used our in vivo intravenous infusion method to see if brain DPAn-6 turnover and metabolism also were altered with deprivation. We studied male rats that had been fed for 15 weeks post-weaning an n-3 PUFA adequate diet containing 4.6% alpha-linolenic acid (α-LNA, 18:3n-3) or a deficient diet (0.2% α-LNA), each lacking docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3) and arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6). [1-14C]DPAn-6 was infused intravenously for 5 min in unanesthetized rats, after which the brain underwent high-energy microwaving, and then was analyzed. The n-3 PUFA deficient compared with adequate diet increased DPAn-6 and decreased DHA concentrations in plasma and brain, while minimally changing brain AA concentration. Incorporation rates of unesterified DPAn-6 from plasma into individual brain phospholipids were increased 5.2–7.7 fold, while turnover rates were increased 2.1–4.7 fold. The observations suggest that increased metabolism and brain concentrations of DPAn-6 and its metabolites, together with a reduced brain DHA concentration, contribute to behavioral and functional abnormalities reported with dietary n-3 PUFA deprivation in rodents.
PMCID: PMC3348251  PMID: 22142872
docosapentaenoic; docosahexaenoic; deficient; turnover; kinetics; brain; diet; n-6; PUFA; arachidonic; rat; phospholipase A2
8.  Combined dietary folate, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6 intake influences plasma docosahexaenoic acid concentration in rats 
Folate, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6 are essential nutritional components in one-carbon metabolism and are required for methylation capacity. The availability of these vitamins may therefore modify methylation of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) to phosphatidylcholine (PC) by PE-N-methyltransferase (PEMT) in the liver. It has been suggested that PC synthesis by PEMT plays an important role in the transport of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from the liver to plasma and possibly other tissues. We hypothesized that if B-vitamin supplementation enhances PEMT activity, then supplementation could also increase the concentration of plasma levels of PUFAs such as DHA. To test this hypothesis, we determined the effect of varying the combined dietary intake of these three B-vitamins on plasma DHA concentration in rats.
In a first experiment, plasma DHA and plasma homocysteine concentrations were measured in rats that had consumed a B-vitamin-poor diet for 4 weeks after which they were either continued on the B-vitamin-poor diet or switched to a B-vitamin-enriched diet for another 4 weeks. In a second experiment, plasma DHA and plasma homocysteine concentrations were measured in rats after feeding them one of four diets with varying levels of B-vitamins for 4 weeks. The diets provided 0% (poor), 100% (normal), 400% (enriched), and 1600% (high) of the laboratory rodent requirements for each of the three B-vitamins.
Plasma DHA concentration was higher in rats fed the B-vitamin-enriched diet than in rats that were continued on the B-vitamin-poor diet (P = 0.005; experiment A). Varying dietary B-vitamin intake from deficient to supra-physiologic resulted in a non-linear dose-dependent trend for increasing plasma DHA (P = 0.027; experiment B). Plasma DHA was lowest in rats consuming the B-vitamin-poor diet (P > 0.05 vs. normal, P < 0.05 vs. enriched and high) and highest in rats consuming the B-vitamin-high diet (P < 0.05 vs. poor and normal, P > 0.05 vs. enriched). B-vitamin deficiency significantly increased plasma total homocysteine but increasing intake above normal did not significantly reduce it. Nevertheless, in both experiments plasma DHA was inversely correlated with plasma total homocysteine.
These data demonstrate that dietary folate, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6 intake can influence plasma concentration of DHA.
PMCID: PMC3420254  PMID: 22647268
B-vitamins; Plasma DHA; Plasma homocysteine; Methylation capacity; Rats
9.  Short term effects of different omega-3 fatty acid formulation on lipid metabolism in mice fed high or low fat diet 
Bioactivities of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) depend on their chemical forms. The present study was to investigate short term effects of triglyceride (TG), ethyl ester (EE), free fatty acid (FFA) and phospholipid (PL) forms of omega-3 fatty acid (FA) on lipid metabolism in mice, fed high fat or low fat diet.
Male Balb/c mice were fed with 0.7% different Omega-3 fatty acid formulation: DHA bound free fatty acid (DHA-FFA), DHA bound triglyceride (DHA-TG), DHA bound ethyl ester (DHA-EE) and DHA bound phospholipid (DHA-PL) for 1 week, with dietary fat levels at 5% and 22.5%. Serum and hepatic lipid concentrations were analyzed, as well as the fatty acid composition of liver and brain.
At low fat level, serum total cholesterol (TC) level in mice fed diets with DHA-FFA, DHA-EE and DHA-PL were significantly lower than that in the control group (P < 0.05). Hepatic TG level decreased significantly in mice fed diets with DHA-TG (P < 0.05), DHA-EE (P < 0.05) and DHA-PL (P < 0.05), while TC level in liver was significantly lower in mice fed diets with TG and EE compared with the control group (P < 0.05). At high fat level, mice fed diets with DHA-EE and DHA-PL had significantly lower hepatic TC level compared with the control diet (P < 0.05). Hepatic PL concentration experienced a significant increase in mice fed the diet with PL at high fat level (P < 0.05). Furthermore, both at low and high fat levels, hepatic DHA level significantly increased and AA level significantly decreased in all forms of DHA groups (P < 0.05), compared to control groups at two different fat levels, respectively. Additionally, cerebral DHA level in mice fed diets with DHA-FFA, DHA-EE and DHA-PL significantly increased compared with the control at high fat level (P < 0.05), but no significant differences were observed among dietary treatments for mice fed diets with low fat level.
The present study suggested that not only total dietary fat content but also the molecular forms of omega-3 fatty acids contributed to lipid metabolism in mice. DHA-PL showed effective bioactivity in decreasing hepatic and serum TC, TG levels and increasing omega-3 concentration in liver and brain.
PMCID: PMC3393618  PMID: 22676394
Omega-3 fatty acid; DHA; EPA; Lipid metabolism; Triglycerides; Ethyl ester; Phospholipids
10.  Regulation of Rat Brain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) Metabolism during Graded Dietary n-3 PUFA Deprivation 
Knowing threshold changes in brain lipids and lipid enzymes during dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid deprivation may elucidate dietary regulation of brain lipid metabolism. To determine thresholds, rats were fed for 15 weeks DHA-free diets having graded reductions of α-linolenic acid (α-LNA). Compared with control diet (4.6% α-LNA), plasma DHA fell significantly at 1.7% dietary α-LNA while brain DHA remained unchanged down to 0.8% α-LNA, when plasma and brain docosapentaenoic acid (DPAn-6) were increased and DHA-selective iPLA2 and COX-1 activities were downregulated. Brain AA was unchanged by deprivation, but AA selective-cPLA2, sPLA2 and COX-2 activities were increased at or below 0.8% dietary α-LNA, possibly in response to elevated brain DPAn-6. In summary, homeostatic mechanisms appear to maintain a control brain DHA concentration down to 0.8% dietary DHA despite reduced plasma DHA, when DPAn-6 replaces DHA. At extreme deprivation, decreased brain iPLA2 and COX-1 activities may reduce brain DHA loss.
PMCID: PMC3208751  PMID: 21880477
n-3 PUFA deprivation; rat brain; phospholipase A2; docosapentaenoic acid
11.  Whole body synthesis rates of DHA from α-linolenic acid are greater than brain DHA accretion and uptake rates in adult rats[S] 
Journal of Lipid Research  2014;55(1):62-74.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important for brain function, however, the exact amount required for the brain is not agreed upon. While it is believed that the synthesis rate of DHA from α-linolenic acid (ALA) is low, how this synthesis rate compares with the amount of DHA required to maintain brain DHA levels is unknown. The objective of this work was to assess whether DHA synthesis from ALA is sufficient for the brain. To test this, rats consumed a diet low in n-3 PUFAs, or a diet containing ALA or DHA for 15 weeks. Over the 15 weeks, whole body and brain DHA accretion was measured, while at the end of the study, whole body DHA synthesis rates, brain gene expression, and DHA uptake rates were measured. Despite large differences in body DHA accretion, there was no difference in brain DHA accretion between rats fed ALA and DHA. In rats fed ALA, DHA synthesis and accretion was 100-fold higher than brain DHA accretion of rats fed DHA. Also, ALA-fed rats synthesized approximately 3-fold more DHA than the DHA uptake rate into the brain. This work indicates that DHA synthesis from ALA may be sufficient to supply the brain.
PMCID: PMC3927474  PMID: 24212299
brain; docosahexaenoic acid; kinetics; a-linolenic-acid; liver; synthesis; conversion
12.  Deficit in Prepulse Inhibition in Mice Caused by Dietary n-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency 
Behavioral neuroscience  2009;123(6):1218-1225.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may be biosynthesized from a precursor α-linolenic acid (LNA) or obtained preformed in the diet. Dams were fed four diets with different levels of the various n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation, and their offspring were weaned to the same diets: “n-3 Deficient”, containing (as % total fatty acids) 0.07% of LNA; “Low LNA” (0.4%); “High LNA” (4.8%); and a “DHA+EPA” diet, containing 0.4% of LNA, 2% DHA and 2% EPA. Sensorimotor gating was measured by prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response in C57Bl6 mice. The n-3 Deficient and Low LNA diets caused a substantial deficit in PPI compared to the DHA+EPA diet, whereas the High LNA diet induced a less pronounced, but significant reduction of PPI. These are the first data that demonstrate a deficit in sensorimotor gating in rodents caused by an inadequate amount of the n-3 fatty acids in the diet. Our results differentiate the effects of a High LNA diet from one with added EPA and DHA even though the difference in brain DHA content is only 12% between these dietary groups.
PMCID: PMC2852869  PMID: 20001105
prepulse inhibition; PPI; DHA; n-3 fatty acid deficiency
13.  Determinants of DHA incorporation into tumor tissue during dietary DHA supplementation 
Lipids  2011;46(11):1063-1069.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), upon incorporation into tumor tissue, has the potential to sensitize tumors to the effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Although DHA has usually been supplied to tumor tissue in the diet, appropriate dietary conditions required to obtain optimal tumor levels have not been established. Hence, we studied mammary tumor tissue responses in rats fed various durations and doses of DHA. Rats fed a palm-oil enriched diet (diet 0) were switched to diets providing either 0.8 g DHA/d (diet 1) or 1.5 g DHA/d (diet 2). Tumor tissue fatty acid composition was analysed at baseline (diet 0), at weeks 1, 4 and 9 during diet 1 and at week 4 during diet 2. Dietary DHA supplementation differentially increased DHA within phospholipids (PL) and triacylglycerol (TAG) fractions in tumors. DHA level equilibrated between 2 and 4 weeks in PL while DHA increase was more progressive in TAG and did not reach a steady state. A higher dose of DHA further increased DHA content in tumor PL and TAG (P = 0.018 and P < 0.001 respectively). DHA concentration in plasma PL was positively correlated with DHA in tumor PL (r = 0.72; P = 0.0003) and TAG (r = 0.64; P = 0.003). We conclude that dietary DHA supplementation enhances tumor content of DHA in a time- and dose-dependent manner, and that DHA level in plasma PL could be used as a proxy for tumor DHA. These findings have implications for dietary DHA supplementations in cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3563367  PMID: 21638063
Animals; Carcinoma; chemically induced; metabolism; Dietary Fats; metabolism; Dietary Supplements; Docosahexaenoic Acids; blood; metabolism; Fatty Acids; metabolism; Female; Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental; chemically induced; metabolism; Methylnitrosourea; Phospholipids; metabolism; Rats; Rats, Sprague-Dawley; Tissue Distribution; Triglycerides; metabolism; DHA incorporation; dietary DHA supplementation; mammary tumors; tumor phospholipids; tumor triacylglycerol; plasma phospholipids
14.  Altered Essential Fatty Acid Metabolism and Composition in Rat Liver, Plasma, Heart and Brain After Microalgal DHA Addition to the Diet 
To investigate the effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) without other highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) on n-3 and n-6 essential fatty acid (EFA) metabolism and fatty acid composition in mammals, a stable isotope tracer technique was used in adult rats fed diets with or without 1.3% of algal DHA in a base diet containing 15% of linoleic acid and 3% of alpha-linolenic acid over 8 weeks. The rats were administered orally a mixed oil containing 48 mg/kg body weight of deuterated linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids and euthanized at 4, 8, 24, 96, 168, 240, 360 and 600 h after administration of the isotopes. Fatty acid compositions and the concentrations of deuterated precursors and their respective metabolites were determined in rat liver, plasma, heart and brain as a function of time. DHA, docosapentaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in the n-3 EFA family were significantly increased in all organs tested in the DHA-fed group, ranging from 5 to 200% greater in comparison with the control group. The accumulation of the metabolites, deuterated-DHA and deuterated-docosapentaenoic acid n-6 were greatly decreased by 1.5 to 2.5 fold in the dietary DHA group. In summary, feeding preformed DHA led to a marked increase in n-3 HUFA content of rat organs at the expense of n-6 HUFA and also prevented the accumulation of newly synthesized deuterated end products. This is the first study which has isolated the effects of DHA on the de novo metabolism on both the n-6 and n-3 EFA pathways.
PMCID: PMC3075345  PMID: 21111595
alpha-linolenic acid; linoleic acid; docosahexaenoic acid; docosapentaenoic acid; essential fatty acid; stable isotope; GC/MS; metabolism
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2008;33(9):1279-1292.
Decreased tissue levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3) are implicated in the etiologies of non-puerperal and postpartum depression. With the aim of determining neurobiological sequelae of decreased brain DHA content, this study examined the effects of a loss of brain DHA content and concurrent reproductive status in adult female Long-Evans rats. An α-linolenic acid-deficient diet and breeding protocols were used to produce virgin and parous female rats with cortical phospholipid DHA levels 23–26% lower than virgin and parous rats fed a control diet containing adequate α-linolenic acid. Parous dams were tested/euthanized at weaning (postnatal day 20) of the second litter; virgin females, during diestrus. Decreased brain DHA was associated with decreased hippocampal BDNF gene expression and increased relative corticosterone response to an intense stressor, regardless of reproductive status. In virgin females with decreased brain DHA, serotonin content and turnover in frontal cortex were decreased compared to virgin females with normal brain DHA. In parous dams with decreased brain DHA, the density of 5-HT1A receptors in the hippocampus was increased, corticosterone response to an intense stressor was increased, and the latency to immobility in the forced swim test was decreased compared to parous dams with normal DHA. These findings demonstrate neurobiological alterations attributable to decreased brain DHA or an interaction of parous status and brain DHA level. Furthermore, the data are consistent with findings in depressed humans, and thus support a role for DHA as a factor in the etiologies of depressive illnesses, particularly postpartum depression.
PMCID: PMC2582014  PMID: 18707812
omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; serotonin 1A receptor; forced swim; postpartum; corticosterone
Physiology & behavior  2010;101(1):176-183.
Insufficient availability of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) during pre- and neonatal development decreases accretion of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) in the developing brain. Low tissue levels of DHA are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In this study, 1st-and 2nd-litter male Long-Evans rats were raised from conception on a Control diet containing α-linolenic acid (4.20 g/kg diet), the dietarily essential fatty acid precursor of DHA, or a diet Deficient in α-linolenic acid (0.38 g/kg diet). The Deficient diet resulted in a decrease in brain phospholipid DHA of 48% in 1st-litter pups and 65% in 2nd-litter pups. Activity, habituation, and response to spatial change in a familiar environment were assessed in a single-session behavioral paradigm at postnatal days 28 and 70, inclusive. Activity and habituation varied by age with younger rats exhibiting higher activity, less habituation, and less stimulation of activity induced by spatial novelty. During the first and second exposures to the test chamber, 2nd-litter Deficient pups exhibited higher levels of activity than Control rats or 1st-litter Deficient pups and less habituation during the first exposure, but were not more active after introduction of a novel spatial stimulus. The higher level of activity in a familiar environment, but not after introduction of a novel stimulus is consistent with clinical observations in ADHD. The observation of this effect only in 2nd-litter rats fed the Deficient diet suggests that brain DHA content, rather than dietary n-3 PUFA content, likely underlies these effects.
PMCID: PMC2923479  PMID: 20457171
polyunsaturated fatty acid; omega-3; docosahexaenoic acid; rat; brain; locomotor activity; novelty; habituation; force-plate actometer
17.  Maternal Magnesium Deficiency in Mice Leads to Maternal Metabolic Dysfunction and Altered Lipid Metabolism with Fetal Growth Restriction 
Molecular Medicine  2014;20(1):332-340.
Inadequate magnesium (Mg) intake is a widespread problem, with over 50% of women of reproductive age consuming less than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Because pregnancy increases the requirement for Mg and the beneficial effects of magnesium sulfate for preeclampsia/eclampsia and fetal neuroprotection are well described, we examined the outcomes of Mg deficiency during pregnancy. Briefly, pregnant Swiss Webster mice were fed either control or Mg-deficient diets starting on gestational day (GD) 6 through euthanasia on GD17. Mg-deficient dams had significantly reduced weight gain and higher plasma adipokines, in the absence of inflammation. Livers of Mg-deficient dams had significantly higher saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and lower polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (P < 0.0001) and arachidonic acid (AA) (P < 0.0001). Mechanistically, Mg deficiency was accompanied by enhanced desaturase and elongase mRNA expression in maternal livers along with higher circulating insulin and glucose concentrations (P < 0.05) and increased mRNA expression of Srebf1 and Chrebp, regulators of fatty acid synthesis (P < 0.05). Fetal pups exposed to Mg deficiency were growth-restricted and exhibited reduced survival. Mg-deficient fetal livers showed lower MUFAs and higher PUFAs, with lower desaturase and elongase mRNA expression than controls. In addition, DHA concentrations were lower in Mg-deficient fetal brains (P < 0.05). These results indicate that Mg deficiency during pregnancy influences both maternal and fetal fatty acid metabolism, fetal growth and fetal survival, and support better understanding maternal Mg status before and during pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC4153836  PMID: 25025397
18.  Brain Docosahexaenoic Acid [DHA] Incorporation and Blood Flow Are Increased in Chronic Alcoholics: A Positron Emission Tomography Study Corrected for Cerebral Atrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75333.
Chronic alcohol dependence has been associated with disturbed behavior, cerebral atrophy and a low plasma concentration of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22∶6n-3), particularly if liver disease is present. In animal models, excessive alcohol consumption is reported to reduce brain DHA concentration, suggesting disturbed brain DHA metabolism. We hypothesized that brain DHA metabolism also is abnormal in chronic alcoholics.
We compared 15 non-smoking chronic alcoholics, studied within 7 days of their last drink, with 22 non-smoking healthy controls. Using published neuroimaging methods with positron emission tomography (PET), we measured regional coefficients (K*) and rates (Jin) of DHA incorporation from plasma into the brain of each group using [1-11C]DHA, and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) using [15O]water. Data were partial volume error corrected for brain atrophy. Plasma unesterified DHA concentration also was quantified.
Mean K* for DHA was significantly and widely elevated by 10–20%, and rCBF was elevated by 7%–34%, in alcoholics compared with controls. Unesterified plasma DHA did not differ significantly between groups nor did whole brain Jin, the product of K* and unesterified plasma DHA concentration.
Significantly higher values of K* for DHA in alcoholics indicate increased brain avidity for DHA, thus a brain DHA metabolic deficit vis-à-vis plasma DHA availability. Higher rCBF in alcoholics suggests increased energy consumption. These changes may reflect a hypermetabolic state related to early alcohol withdrawal, or a general brain metabolic change in chronic alcoholics.
PMCID: PMC3788756  PMID: 24098376
19.  Differential effect of maternal diet supplementation with α-Linolenic adcid or n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on glial cell phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine fatty acid profile in neonate rat brains 
Dietary long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) are of crucial importance for the development of neural tissues. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a dietary supplementation in n-3 fatty acids in female rats during gestation and lactation on fatty acid pattern in brain glial cells phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and phosphatidylserine (PS) in the neonates.
Sprague-Dawley rats were fed during the whole gestation and lactation period with a diet containing either docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 0.55%) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 0.75% of total fatty acids) or α-linolenic acid (ALA, 2.90%). At two weeks of age, gastric content and brain glial cell PE and PS of rat neonates were analyzed for their fatty acid and dimethylacetal (DMA) profile. Data were analyzed by bivariate and multivariate statistics.
In the neonates from the group fed with n-3 LC-PUFA, the DHA level in gastric content (+65%, P < 0.0001) and brain glial cell PE (+18%, P = 0.0001) and PS (+15%, P = 0.0009) were significantly increased compared to the ALA group. The filtered correlation analysis (P < 0.05) underlined that levels of dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA), DHA and n-3 docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) were negatively correlated with arachidonic acid (ARA) and n-6 DPA in PE of brain glial cells. No significant correlation between n-3 and n-6 LC-PUFA were found in the PS dataset. DMA level in PE was negatively correlated with n-6 DPA. DMA were found to occur in brain glial cell PS fraction; in this class DMA level was correlated negatively with DHA and positively with ARA.
The present study confirms that early supplementation of maternal diet with n-3 fatty acids supplied as LC-PUFA is more efficient in increasing n-3 in brain glial cell PE and PS in the neonate than ALA. Negative correlation between n-6 DPA, a conventional marker of DHA deficiency, and DMA in PE suggests n-6 DPA that potentially be considered as a marker of tissue ethanolamine plasmalogen status. The combination of multivariate and bivariate statistics allowed to underline that the accretion pattern of n-3 LC-PUFA in PE and PS differ.
PMCID: PMC2819247  PMID: 20148111
20.  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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
PMCID: PMC2852776  PMID: 19961266
Antioxidants; brain; DHA; EPA; fish oil; lipid peroxidation; nitric oxide synthase
21.  Dietary arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid regulate liver fatty acid desaturase (FADS) alternative transcript expression in suckling piglets 
Prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and essential fatty acids  2013;89(5):10.1016/j.plefa.2013.08.004.
Molecular regulation of fatty acid desaturase (Fads) gene expression by dietary arachidonic (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during early postnatal period, when the demand for long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) is very high, has not been well defined. The objective of the current study was to determine regulation of liver Fads1, Fads2 and Fads3 classical (CS) and alternative transcripts (AT) expression by dietary ARA and DHA, within the physiological range present in human breast milk, in suckling piglets. Piglets were fed one of six milk replacer formula diets (Formula-reared groups, FR) with varying ARA and DHA content from days 3-28 of age. The ARA/DHA levels of the six formula diets were as follows (% total fatty acid, FA/FA): (A1) 0.1/1.0; (A2) 0.53/1.0; (A3-D3) 0.69/1.0; (A4) 1.1/1.0; (D2) 0.67/0.62; (D1) 0.66/0.33. The control maternal-reared (MR) group remained with the dam. Fads1 expression was not significantly different between FR and MR groups. Fads2 expression was down-regulated significantly in diets with 1:1 ratio of ARA:DHA, compared to MR. Fads2 AT1 expression was highly correlated to Fads2 expression. Fads3 AT7 was the only Fads3 transcript sensitive to dietary LC-PUFA intake and was up-regulated in the formula diets with lowest ARA and DHA content compared to MR. Thus, the present study provides evidence that the proportion of dietary ARA:DHA is a significant determinant of Fads2 expression and LC-PUFA metabolism during the early post-natal period. Further, the data suggest that Fads3 AT7 may have functional significance when dietary supply of ARA and DHA are low during early development.
PMCID: PMC3818473  PMID: 24075244
Arachidonic acid; Docosahexaenoic acid; fatty acid desaturase gene; infant nutrition; piglet
22.  Elongase Reactions as Control Points in Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Synthesis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29662.
Δ6-Desaturase (Fads2) is widely regarded as rate-limiting in the conversion of dietary α-linolenic acid (18:3n-3; ALA) to the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3; DHA). However, increasing dietary ALA or the direct Fads2 product, stearidonic acid (18:4n-3; SDA), increases tissue levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3; EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (22:5n-3; DPA), but not DHA. These observations suggest that one or more control points must exist beyond ALA metabolism by Fads2. One possible control point is a second reaction involving Fads2 itself, since this enzyme catalyses desaturation of 24:5n-3 to 24:6n-3, as well as ALA to SDA. However, metabolism of EPA and DPA both require elongation reactions. This study examined the activities of two elongase enzymes as well as the second reaction of Fads2 in order to concentrate on the metabolism of EPA to DHA.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The substrate selectivities, competitive substrate interactions and dose response curves of the rat elongases, Elovl2 and Elovl5 were determined after expression of the enzymes in yeast. The competitive substrate interactions for rat Fads2 were also examined. Rat Elovl2 was active with C20 and C22 polyunsaturated fatty acids and this single enzyme catalysed the sequential elongation reactions of EPA→DPA→24:5n-3. The second reaction DPA→24:5n-3 appeared to be saturated at substrate concentrations not saturating for the first reaction EPA→DPA. ALA dose-dependently inhibited Fads2 conversion of 24:5n-3 to 24:6n-3.
The competition between ALA and 24:5n-3 for Fads2 may explain the decrease in DHA levels observed after certain intakes of dietary ALA have been exceeded. In addition, the apparent saturation of the second Elovl2 reaction, DPA→24:5n-3, provides further explanations for the accumulation of DPA when ALA, SDA or EPA is provided in the diet. This study suggests that Elovl2 will be critical in understanding if DHA synthesis can be increased by dietary means.
PMCID: PMC3245304  PMID: 22216341
23.  Gender Differences in Rat Erythrocyte and Brain Docosahexaenoic Acid Composition: Role of Ovarian Hormones and Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Composition 
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2008;34(4):532-539.
The two-fold higher prevalence rate of major depression in females may involve vulnerability to omega-3 fatty acid deficiency secondary to a dysregulation in ovarian hormones. However, the role of ovarian hormones in the regulation of brain omega-3 fatty acid composition has not been directly evaluated. Here we determined erythrocyte and regional brain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) composition in intact male and female rats, and in chronically ovariectomized (OVX) rats with or without cyclic estradiol treatment (2 μg/4 d). All groups were maintained on diets with or without the DHA precursor alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3n-3). We report that both male (−21%) and OVX (−19%) rats on ALA+ diet exhibited significantly lower erythrocyte DHA composition relative to female controls. Females on ALA+ diet exhibited lower DHA composition in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) relative males (−5%). OVX rats on ALA+ diet exhibited significantly lower DHA composition in the hippocampus (−6%), but not in the PFC, hypothalamus, or midbrain. Lower erythrocyte and hippocampus DHA composition in OVX rats was not prevented by estrogen replacement. All groups maintained on ALA− diet exhibited significantly lower erythrocyte and regional brain DHA composition relative to groups on ALA+ diet, and these reductions were greater in males but not in OVX rats. These preclinical data corroborate clinical evidence for gender differences in peripheral DHA composition (female>male), demonstrate gender differences in PFC DHA composition (male>female), and support a link between ovarian hormones and erythrocyte and region-specific brain DHA composition.
PMCID: PMC2692269  PMID: 19046819
Omega-3 fatty acids; docosahexaenoic acid; alpha-linolenic acid; ovariectomy; estrogen; prefrontal cortex; hippocampus; hypothalamus; midbrain; gender; rat
24.  Neuropathological Responses to Chronic NMDA in Rats Are Worsened by Dietary n-3 PUFA Deprivation but Are Not Ameliorated by Fish Oil Supplementation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95318.
Dietary long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation may be beneficial for chronic brain illnesses, but the issue is not agreed on. We examined effects of dietary n-3 PUFA deprivation or supplementation, compared with an n-3 PUFA adequate diet (containing alpha-linolenic acid [18:3 n-3] but not docosahexaenoic acid [DHA, 22:6n-3]), on brain markers of lipid metabolism and excitotoxicity, in rats treated chronically with NMDA or saline.
Male rats after weaning were maintained on one of three diets for 15 weeks. After 12 weeks, each diet group was injected i.p. daily with saline (1 ml/kg) or a subconvulsive dose of NMDA (25 mg/kg) for 3 additional weeks. Then, brain fatty acid concentrations and various markers of excitotoxicity and fatty acid metabolism were measured.
Compared to the diet-adequate group, brain DHA concentration was reduced, while n-6 docosapentaenoic acid (DPA, 22:5n-6) concentration was increased in the n-3 deficient group; arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6) concentration was unchanged. These concentrations were unaffected by fish oil supplementation. Chronic NMDA increased brain cPLA2 activity in each of the three groups, but n-3 PUFA deprivation or fish oil did not change cPLA2 activity or protein compared with the adequate group. sPLA2 expression was unchanged in the three conditions, whereas iPLA2 expression was reduced by deprivation but not changed by supplementation. BDNF protein was reduced by NMDA in N-3 PUFA deficient rats, but protein levels of IL-1β, NGF, and GFAP did not differ between groups.
N-3 PUFA deprivation significantly worsened several pathological NMDA-induced changes produced in diet adequate rats, whereas n-3 PUFA supplementation did not affect NMDA induced changes. Supplementation may not be critical for this measured neuropathology once the diet has an adequate n-3 PUFA content.
PMCID: PMC4010416  PMID: 24798187
25.  Providing male rats deficient in iron and n-3 fatty acids with iron and alpha-linolenic acid alone affects brain serotonin and cognition differently from combined provision 
We recently showed that a combined deficiency of iron (ID) and n-3 fatty acids (n-3 FAD) in rats disrupts brain monoamine metabolism and produces greater memory deficits than ID or n-3 FAD alone. Providing these double-deficient rats with either iron (Fe) or preformed docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)/eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) alone affected brain monoamine pathways differently from combined repletion and even exacerbated cognitive deficits associated with double-deficiency. Iron is a co-factor of the enzymes responsible for the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to EPA and DHA, thus, the provision of ALA with Fe might be more effective in restoring brain EPA and DHA and improving cognition in double-deficient rats than ALA alone.
In this study we examined whether providing double-deficient rats with ALA and Fe, alone or in combination, can correct deficits in monoamine metabolism and cognition associated with double-deficiency. Using a 2 × 2 design, male rats with concurrent ID and n-3 FAD were fed an Fe + ALA, Fe + n-3 FAD, ID + ALA, or ID + n-3 FAD diet for 5 weeks (postnatal day 56–91). Biochemical measures, and spatial working and reference memory (using the Morris water maze) were compared to age-matched controls.
In the hippocampus, we found a significant Fe × ALA interaction on DHA: Compared to the group receiving ALA alone, DHA was significantly higher in the Fe + ALA group. In the brain, we found significant antagonistic Fe × ALA interactions on serotonin concentrations. Provision of ALA alone impaired working memory compared with age-matched controls, while in the reference memory task ALA provided with Fe significantly improved performance.
These results indicate that providing either iron or ALA alone to double-deficient rats affects serotonin pathways and cognitive performance differently from combined provision. This may be partly explained by the enhancing effect of Fe on the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA.
PMCID: PMC4068877  PMID: 24928171
Alpha-linolenic acid; Cognition; Iron; Monoamines; n-3 fatty acids

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