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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.
PMCID: PMC3169088  PMID: 21281269
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); N-docosahexaenoylethanolamide (DEA); hippocampus; neurite growth; neuron; synaptogenesis
2.  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.
PMCID: PMC3541447  PMID: 22959887
Synaptamide; Synaptogenesis; Neuritogenesis; N-docosahexaenoylethanolamine; Docosahexaenoic acid; Omega-3 fatty acid; Fatty acid amide hydrolase; Endocannabinoids; Anandamide
3.  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.
PMCID: PMC3775276  PMID: 23570577
synaptamide; neural stem cells; neurogenesis; docosahexaenoic acid; omega-3 fatty acids; PKA; CREB
4.  Docosahexaenoic acid promotes hippocampal neuronal development and synaptic function 
Journal of neurochemistry  2009;111(2):510-521.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3), the major polyunsaturated fatty acid accumulated in the brain during development, has been implicated in learning and memory, but underlying cellular mechanisms are not clearly understood. Here, we demonstrate that DHA significantly affects hippocampal neuronal development and synaptic function in developing hippocampi. In embryonic neuronal cultures, DHA supplementation uniquely promoted neurite growth, synapsin puncta formation and synaptic protein expression, particularly synapsins and glutamate receptors. In DHA-supplemented neurons, spontaneous synaptic activity was significantly increased, mostly because of enhanced glutamatergic synaptic activity. Conversely, hippocampal neurons from DHA-depleted fetuses showed inhibited neurite growth and synaptogenesis. Furthermore, n-3 fatty acid deprivation during development resulted in marked decreases of synapsins and glutamate receptor subunits in the hippocampi of 18-day-old pups with concomitant impairment of long-term potentiation, a cellular mechanism underlying learning and memory. While levels of synapsins and NMDA receptor subunit NR2A were decreased in most hippocampal regions, NR2A expression was particularly reduced in CA3, suggesting possible role of DHA in CA3-NMDA receptor-dependent learning and memory processes. The DHA-induced neurite growth, synaptogenesis, synapsin, and glutamate receptor expression, and glutamatergic synaptic function may represent important cellular aspects supporting the hippocampus-related cognitive function improved by DHA.
PMCID: PMC2773444  PMID: 19682204
docosahexaenoic acid; hippocampal development; long-term potentiation; neurite growth; synaptic function; synaptogenesis
5.  Cannabinoid receptor-dependent and -independent anti-proliferative effects of omega-3 ethanolamides in androgen receptor-positive and -negative prostate cancer cell lines 
Carcinogenesis  2010;31(9):1584-1591.
The omega-3 fatty acid ethanolamides, docosahexaenoyl ethanolamide (DHEA) and eicosapentaenoyl ethanolamide (EPEA), displayed greater anti-proliferative potency than their parent omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), in LNCaP and PC3 prostate cancer cells. DHEA and EPEA activated cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors in vitro with significant potency, suggesting that they are endocannabinoids. Both LNCaP and PC3 cells expressed CB1 and CB2 receptors, and the CB1- and CB2-selective antagonists, AM281 and AM630, administered separately or together, reduced the anti-proliferative potencies of EPEA and EPA but not of DHEA or DHA in PC3 cells and of EPA but not of EPEA, DHEA or DHA in LNCaP cells. Even so, EPEA and EPA may not have inhibited PC3 or LNCaP cell proliferation via cannabinoid receptors since the anti-proliferative potency of EPEA was well below the potency it displayed as a CB1 or CB2 receptor agonist. Indeed, these receptors may mediate a protective effect because the anti-proliferative potency of DHEA in LNCaP and PC3 cells was increased by separate or combined administration of AM281 and AM630. The anandamide-metabolizing enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), was highly expressed in LNCaP but not PC3 cells. Evidence was obtained that FAAH metabolizes EPEA and DHEA and that the anti-proliferative potencies of these ethanolamides in LNCaP cells can be enhanced by inhibiting this enzyme. Our findings suggest that the expression of cannabinoid receptors and of FAAH in some tumour cells could well influence the effectiveness of DHA and EPA or their ethanolamide derivatives as anticancer agents.
PMCID: PMC2930808  PMID: 20660502
6.  Dose Response Effects of Dermally applied Diethanolamine on Neurogenesis in Fetal Mouse Hippocampus and Potential Exposure of Humans 
Toxicological Sciences  2008;107(1):220-226.
Diethanolamine (DEA) is a common ingredient of personal care products. Dermal administration of DEA diminishes hepatic stores of the essential nutrient choline and alters brain development. We previously reported that 80 mg/kg/day of DEA during pregnancy in mice reduced neurogenesis and increased apoptosis in the fetal hippocampus. This study was designed to establish the dose-response relationships for this effect of DEA. Timed-pregnant C57BL/6 mouse dams were dosed dermally from gestation day 7–17 with DEA at 0 (controls), 5, 40, 60, and 80 mg/kg body/day. Fetuses (embryonic day 17 [E17]) from dams treated dermally with 80 mg/kg body/day DEA had decreased neural progenitor cell mitosis at the ventricular surface of the ventricular zone (hippocampus, 54.1 ± 5.5%; cortex, 58.9 ± 6.8%; compared to controls; p < 0.01). Also, this dose of DEA to dams increased rates of apoptosis in E17 fetal hippocampus (to 177.2 ± 21.5% of control; measured using activated caspase-3; p < 0.01). This dose of DEA resulted in accumulation of DEA and its metabolites in liver and in plasma. At doses of DEA less than 80 mg/kg body/day to dams, there were no differences between treated and control groups. In a small group of human subjects, dermal treatment for 1 month with a commercially available skin lotion containing 1.8 mg DEA per gram resulted in detectable plasma concentrations of DEA and dimethyldiethanolamine, but these were far below those concentrations associated with perturbed brain development in the mouse.
PMCID: PMC2638646  PMID: 18948303
diethanolamine; choline; pregnancy; brain development; mouse; hippocampus
7.  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.
PMCID: PMC3208643  PMID: 18620024
DHA; exercise; BDNF; omega-3 fatty acids; cognition
8.  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.
PMCID: PMC3458425  PMID: 22003853
Synaptic plasma membrane (SPM); synaptic proteins; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); 18O labeling; nano-LC/ESI-MS/MS; brain
9.  Neuroprotectin D1 Restores Corneal Nerve Integrity and Function After Damage From Experimental Surgery 
To investigate if topical treatment of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1) increases regeneration of functional nerves after lamellar keratectomy.
An 8-mm stromal dissection was performed in the left eye of each rabbit. The rabbits were treated with NPD1, pigment epithelial-derived factor (PEDF) in combination with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or vehicle for 6 weeks, and corneas were obtained at 8 weeks. After fixation, corneal wholemounts were stained with mouse monoclonal anti-βIII-tubulin antibody and double stained with chicken anti-calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) antibody. Corneal sensitivity and tear secretion were measured using the Cochet-Bonnet esthesiometer and the Schirmer's test, respectively. Additional rabbits were treated with NPD1, PEDF+DHA, or vehicle, and corneal sections were stained with a rat monoclonal anti-neutrophil antibody. Cultures of trigeminal ganglia from 5-day-old mice were treated with NPD1, PEDF+DHA, lipoxin A4 (LXA4), 12- or 15-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12[S] or 15[S]-HETE), and nerve growth factor (NGF) as positive control.
NPD1 increased subepithelial corneal nerve area three times compared with vehicle-treated rabbits. The effect was similar to PEDF+DHA–treated animals. There was recovery of CGRP-positive neurons and an increase in corneal sensitivity and tear secretion in NPD1-treated animals. NPD1 decreased neutrophil infiltration after 2 and 4 days of treatment. In the in vitro cultures, NPD1 and PEDF+DHA induced a 3-fold increase in neurite outgrowth compared with cultures without supplementation. Treatments with LXA4, 12(S)-, and 15(S)- HETE did not stimulate neurite outgrowth.
NPD1 has anti-inflammatory and nerve regenerative properties. This study demonstrates that NPD1 may offer an effective treatment for neurotrophic corneas.
We show, for the first time, that the docosanoid neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1) is able to regenerate corneal nerves after damage from lamellar keratectomy in an animal model and reduce polymorphonuclear neutrophil infiltration induced by injury.
PMCID: PMC3681478  PMID: 23702780
neuroregeneration; corneal sensitivity; pigment epithelial-derived factor; neuroprotectin D1; dry eye
10.  Diethanolamine alters neurogenesis and induces apoptosis in fetal mouse hippocampus 
Diethanolamine (DEA) is present in many consumer products such as shampoo. Dermal administration of DEA diminishes hepatic stores of the essential nutrient choline, and we previously reported that dietary choline deficiency during pregnancy reduces neurogenesis and increases apoptosis in the hippocampus of fetal rats and mice. Therefore, DEA could also alter brain development. Timed-pregnant C57BL/6 mice were dosed dermally from gestation day 7 through 17 with DEA at 0, 20, 80, 160, 320, and 640 mg/kg body/day. At doses of DEA > 80 mg/kg body/day, we observed decreased litter size. In fetuses (embryonic day 17) collected from dams treated dermally with 80 mg/kg body/day DEA, we observed decreased neural progenitor cell mitosis at the ventricular surface of the ventricular zone of the hippocampus [to 56±14% (SE) histone 3 (H3) phosphorylation as compared to controls; P < 0.01]. We also observed increased apoptosis in fetal hippocampus (to 170±10% of control measured using TUNEL and to 178±7% of control measured using activated caspase 3; P < 0.01). Thus, maternal exposure to DEA reduces the number of neural progenitor cells in hippocampus by two mechanisms, and this could permanently alter memory function in offspring of mothers exposed to this common ingredient of shampoos and soaps.—Craciunescu, C. N., Wu, R., Zeisel, S. H. Diethanolamine alters neurogenesis and induces apoptosis in fetal mouse hippocampus.
PMCID: PMC1574370  PMID: 16873886
choline; pregnancy; brain development
11.  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.
PMCID: PMC2140951  PMID: 17950710
docosahexaenoic acid; uridine; membrane synthesis; spine formation; synaptogenesis; phosphatides
12.  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.
PMCID: PMC3180614  PMID: 21918832
Epilepsy; Neuroprotectin D1; Photoreceptors; Retinal pigment epithelial cells; Liver
13.  Docosahexaenoic acid attenuates the early inflammatory response following spinal cord injury in mice: in-vivo and in-vitro studies 
Two families of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), omega-3 (ω-3) and omega-6 (ω-6), are required for physiological functions. The long chain ω-3 PUFAs, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have significant biological effects. In particular, DHA is a major component of cell membranes in the brain. It is also involved in neurotransmission. Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a highly devastating pathology that can lead to catastrophic dysfunction, with a significant reduction in the quality of life. Previous studies have shown that EPA and DHA can exert neuroprotective effects in SCI in mice and rats. The aim of this study was to analyze the mechanism of action of ω-3 PUFAs, such as DHA, in a mouse model of SCI, with a focus on the early pathophysiological processes.
In this study, SCI was induced in mice by the application of an aneurysm clip onto the dura mater via a four-level T5 to T8 laminectomy. Thirty minutes after compression, animals received a tail vein injection of DHA at a dose of 250 nmol/kg. All animals were killed at 24 h after SCI, to evaluate various parameters implicated in the spread of the injury.
Our results in this in-vivo study clearly demonstrate that DHA treatment reduces key factors associated with spinal cord trauma. Treatment with DHA significantly reduced: (1) the degree of spinal cord inflammation and tissue injury, (2) pro-inflammatory cytokine expression (TNF-α), (3) nitrotyrosine formation, (4) glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expression, and (5) apoptosis (Fas-L, Bax, and Bcl-2 expression). Moreover, DHA significantly improved the recovery of limb function.
Furthermore, in this study we evaluated the effect of oxidative stress on dorsal root ganglion (DRG) cells using a well-characterized in-vitro model. Treatment with DHA ameliorated the effects of oxidative stress on neurite length and branching.
Our results, in vivo and in vitro, clearly demonstrate that DHA treatment reduces the development of inflammation and tissue injury associated with spinal cord trauma.
PMCID: PMC3895696  PMID: 24405628
DHA; Inflammation; Omega-3; Oxidative stress; Spinal cord injury
14.  The Salutary Effects of DHA Dietary Supplementation on Cognition, Neuroplasticity, and Membrane Homeostasis after Brain Trauma 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2011;28(10):2113-2122.
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.
PMCID: PMC3191367  PMID: 21851229
brain-derived neurotrophic factor; plasticity; Sir2; superoxide dismutase; traumatic brain injury
15.  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.
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
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
17.  Post ischemia intermittent hypoxia induces hippocampal neurogenesis and synaptic alterations and alleviates long-term memory impairment 
Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is important for learning and memory, especially after a brain injury such as ischemia. Newborn hippocampal neurons contribute to memory performance by establishing functional synapses with target cells. This study demonstrated that the maturation of hippocampal neurons is enhanced by postischemia intermittent hypoxia (IH) intervention. The effects of IH intervention in cultured neurons were mediated by increased synaptogenesis, which was primarily regulated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)/PI3K/AKT. Hippocampal neo-neurons expressed BDNF and exhibited enhanced presynaptic function as indicated by increases in the pSynapsin expression, synaptophysin intensity, and postsynapse density following IH intervention after ischemia. Postischemia IH-induced hippocampal neo-neurons were affected by presynaptic activity, which reflected the dynamic plasticity of the glutamatergic receptors. These alterations were also associated with the alleviation of ischemia-induced long-term memory impairment. Our results suggest that postischemia IH intervention rescued ischemia-induced spatial learning and memory impairment by inducing hippocampal neurogenesis and functional synaptogenesis via BDNF expression.
PMCID: PMC3652689  PMID: 23443175
behavior (rodent); brain ischemia; cognition impairment; hippocampus; synapse/dendrites
18.  Cellular and molecular events mediated by docosahexaenoic acid-derived neuroprotectin D1 signaling in photoreceptor cell survival and brain protection 
Deficiency in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is associated with impaired visual and neurological postnatal development, cognitive decline, macular degeneration, and other neurodegenerative diseases. DHA is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acyl chain concentrated in phospholipids of brain and retina, with photoreceptor cells displaying the highest content of DHA of all cell membranes. The identification and characterization of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1, 10R, 17S-dihydroxy-docosa-4Z, 7Z, 11E, 13E, 15Z, 19Z-hexaenoic acid) contributes to understanding the biological significance of DHA. In oxidative stress-challenged human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, human brain cells, or rat brains undergoing ischemia-reperfusion, NPD1 synthesis is enhanced as a response for sustaining homeostasis. Thus, neurotrophins, Aβ peptide 42 (Aβ42), calcium ionophore A23187, interleukin (IL)-1 β, or DHA supply enhances NPD1 synthesis. NPD1, in turn, up-regulates the anti-apoptotic proteins of the Bcl-2 family and decreases the expression of pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members. Moreover, NPD1 inhibits IL-1 β-stimulated expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Because both RPE and photoreceptors are damaged and then die in retinal degenerations, elucidating how NPD1 signaling contributes to retinal cell survival may lead to a new understanding of disease mechanisms. In human neural cells, DHA attenuates amyloid-β (Aβ) secretion, resulting in concomitant formation of NPD1. NPD1 was found to be reduced in the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) CA1 hippocampal region, but not in other areas of the brain. The expression of key enzymes for NPD1 biosynthesis, cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2), and 15-lipoxygenase (15-LOX) was found altered in the AD hippocampal CA1 region. NPD1 repressed Aβ42-triggered activation of pro-inflammatory genes and upregulated the anti-apoptotic genes encoding Bcl-2, Bcl-xl, and Bfl-1(A1) in human brain cells in culture. Overall, these results support the concept that NPD1 promotes brain and retina cell survival via the induction of anti-apoptotic and neuroprotective gene-expression programs that suppress Aβ42-induced neurotoxicity and other forms of cell injury, which in turn fosters homeostasis during development in aging, as well as during the initiation and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC2756692  PMID: 19520558
n-3 (omega-3) fatty acid; n-6 (omega-6) fatty acid; retinal pigment epithelial cell; Aβ42; Bcl-2 proteins; eicosanoids; docosanoids; inflammation; photoreceptor renewal; liver; neurotrophins; aging; Alzheimer’s disease; macular degeneration
19.  Docosahexaenoyl ethanolamide improves glucose uptake and alters endocannabinoid system gene expression in proliferating and differentiating C2C12 myoblasts 
Skeletal muscle is a major storage site for glycogen and a focus for understanding insulin resistance and type-2-diabetes. New evidence indicates that overactivation of the peripheral endocannabinoid system (ECS) in skeletal muscle diminishes insulin sensitivity. Specific n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are precursors for the biosynthesis of ligands that bind to and activate the cannabinoid receptors. The function of the ECS and action of PUFA in skeletal muscle glucose uptake was investigated in proliferating and differentiated C2C12 myoblasts treated with either 25 μM of arachidonate (AA) or docosahexaenoate (DHA), 25 μM of EC [anandamide (AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), docosahexaenoylethanolamide (DHEA)], 1 μM of CB1 antagonist NESS0327, and CB2 inverse agonist AM630. Compared to the BSA vehicle control cell cultures in both proliferating and differentiated myoblasts those treated with DHEA, the EC derived from the n-3 PUFA DHA, had higher 24 h glucose uptake, while AEA and 2-AG, the EC derived from the n-6 PUFA AA, had lower basal glucose uptake. Adenylyl cyclase mRNA was higher in myoblasts treated with DHA in both proliferating and differentiated states while those treated with AEA or 2-AG were lower compared to the control cell cultures. Western blot and qPCR analysis showed higher expression of the cannabinoid receptors in differentiated myoblasts treated with DHA while the opposite was observed with AA. These findings indicate a compensatory effect of DHA and DHEA compared to AA-derived ligands on the ECS and associated ECS gene expression and higher glucose uptake in myoblasts.
PMCID: PMC3968752  PMID: 24711795
endocannabinoid system; C2C12 myoblasts; cannabinoid receptors; glucose uptake; gene expression; DHEA; polyunsaturated fatty acids
20.  Diethanolamine Alters Proliferation and Choline Metabolism in Mouse Neural Precursor Cells 
Diethanolamine (DEA) is a widely used ingredient in many consumer products and in a number of industrial applications. It has been previously reported that dermal administration of DEA to mice diminished hepatic stores of choline and altered brain development in the fetus. The aim of this study was to use mouse neural precursor cells in vitro to assess the mechanism underlying the effects of DEA. Cells exposed to DEA treatment (3mM) proliferated less (by 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine incorporation) at 48 h (24% of control [CT]), and had increased apoptosis at 72 h (308% of CT). Uptake of choline into cells was reduced by DEA treatment (to 52% of CT), resulting in diminished intracellular concentrations of choline and phosphocholine (55 and 12% of CT, respectively). When choline concentration in the growth medium was increased threefold (to 210μM), the effects of DEA exposure on cell proliferation and apoptosis were prevented, however, intracellular phosphocholine concentrations remained low. In choline kinase assays, we observed that DEA can be phosphorylated to phospho-DEA at the expense of choline. Thus, the effects of DEA are likely mediated by inhibition of choline transport into neural precursor cells and by altered metabolism of choline. Our study suggests that prenatal exposure to DEA may have a detrimental effect on brain development.
PMCID: PMC2430108  PMID: 17204582
diethanolamine; choline; neural precursor cells; cell proliferation; apoptosis
21.  Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency during Brain Maturation Reduces Neuronal and Behavioral Plasticity in Adulthood 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28451.
Omega-3-fatty acid DHA is a structural component of brain plasma membranes, thereby crucial for neuronal signaling; however, the brain is inefficient at synthesizing DHA. We have asked how levels of dietary n-3 fatty acids during brain growth would affect brain function and plasticity during adult life. Pregnant rats and their male offspring were fed an n-3 adequate diet or n-3 deficient diets for 15 weeks. Results showed that the n-3 deficiency increased parameters of anxiety-like behavior using open field and elevated plus maze tests in the male offspring. Behavioral changes were accompanied by a level reduction in the anxiolytic-related neuropeptide Y-1 receptor, and an increase in the anxiogenic-related glucocorticoid receptor in the cognitive related frontal cortex, hypothalamus and hippocampus. The n-3 deficiency reduced brain levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and increased the ratio n-6/n-3 assessed by gas chromatography. The n-3 deficiency reduced the levels of BDNF and signaling through the BDNF receptor TrkB, in proportion to brain DHA levels, and reduced the activation of the BDNF-related signaling molecule CREB in selected brain regions. The n-3 deficiency also disrupted the insulin signaling pathways as evidenced by changes in insulin receptor (IR) and insulin receptor substrate (IRS). DHA deficiency during brain maturation reduces plasticity and compromises brain function in adulthood. Adequate levels of dietary DHA seem crucial for building long-term neuronal resilience for optimal brain performance and aiding in the battle against neurological disorders.
PMCID: PMC3233581  PMID: 22163304
22.  DHA Improves Cognition and Prevents Dysfunction of Entorhinal Cortex Neurons in 3xTg-AD Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17397.
Defects in neuronal activity of the entorhinal cortex (EC) are suspected to underlie the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Whereas neuroprotective effects of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been described, the effects of DHA on the physiology of EC neurons remain unexplored in animal models of AD. Here, we show that DHA consumption improved object recognition (↑12%), preventing deficits observed in old 3xTg-AD mice (↓12%). Moreover, 3xTg-AD mice displayed seizure-like akinetic episodes, not detected in NonTg littermates and partly prevented by DHA (↓50%). Patch-clamp recording revealed that 3xTg-AD EC neurons displayed (i) loss of cell capacitance (CC), suggesting reduced membrane surface area; (ii) increase of firing rate versus injected current (F-I) curve associated with modified action potentials, and (iii) overactivation of glutamatergic synapses, without changes in synaptophysin levels. DHA consumption increased CC (↑12%) and decreased F-I slopes (↓21%), thereby preventing the opposite alterations observed in 3xTg-AD mice. Our results indicate that cognitive performance and basic physiology of EC neurons depend on DHA intake in a mouse model of AD.
PMCID: PMC3044176  PMID: 21383850
23.  A role for docosahexaenoic acid–derived neuroprotectin D1 in neural cell survival and Alzheimer disease 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(10):2774-2783.
Deficiency in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a brain-essential omega-3 fatty acid, is associated with cognitive decline. Here we report that, in cytokine-stressed human neural cells, DHA attenuates amyloid-β (Aβ) secretion, an effect accompanied by the formation of NPD1, a novel, DHA-derived 10,17S-docosatriene. DHA and NPD1 were reduced in Alzheimer disease (AD) hippocampal cornu ammonis region 1, but not in the thalamus or occipital lobes from the same brains. The expression of key enzymes in NPD1 biosynthesis, cytosolic phospholipase A2 and 15-lipoxygenase, was altered in AD hippocampus. NPD1 repressed Aβ42-triggered activation of proinflammatory genes while upregulating the antiapoptotic genes encoding Bcl-2, Bcl-xl, and Bfl-1(A1). Soluble amyloid precursor protein-α stimulated NPD1 biosynthesis from DHA. These results indicate that NPD1 promotes brain cell survival via the induction of antiapoptotic and neuroprotective gene-expression programs that suppress Aβ42-induced neurotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC1199531  PMID: 16151530
24.  Low dose docosahexaenoic acid protects normal colonic epithelial cells from araC toxicity 
BMC Pharmacology  2005;5:7.
The nucleoside analogue arabinosylcytosine (araC) has been used for many years in the treatment of acute leukemia. Evidence in the literature suggests that araC may inhibit the growth of human colon carcinoma cell lines as well. Because araC action interferes with normal nucleoside metabolism, it is highly toxic to a number of normal cell types including bone marrow and intestinal mucosa cells. Here we investigate whether the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) could selectively target araC toxicity toward colonic tumor cells while protecting the normal cells in vitro.
Cultures of normal rat colonic epithelial cells (4D/WT) and those transformed by v-src (D/v-src) were supplemented with graded concentrations of DHA or arachidonic acid (AA) alone or in combination with araC. AraC was only 1.6 fold more toxic to D/v-src than 4D/WT in cultures without added fatty acids. Supplementing with as little as 3 μM of either AA or DHA increased araC toxicity by more than 30-fold in the tumorigenic cells. The toxic effect of araC on the normal cells was also increased by the fatty acid supplementation. IC50 values were decreased 1.7 fold by DHA in the 4D/WT cells but a more than 7-fold decrease was observed during AA supplementation. As a result, the therapeutic index of araC (IC50 normal/IC50 tumor) was more than 3-fold higher in the DHA than the AA supplemented cells. The expression of protein kinase C isoform epsilon was decreased in AA alone supplemented D/v-src cultures but in combination with araC decreased only in DHA supplemented 4D/WT cells.
Low dose DHA supplementation may enhance araC chemotherapy in colon cancer while protecting normal tissues, possibly through control of PKC signalling pathways.
PMCID: PMC1079882  PMID: 15788091
25.  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.
PMCID: PMC2884051  PMID: 19446534
Omega-3 fatty acid; Voluntary exercise; Syntaxin; Synaptic membrane; Hippocampus

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