Flaxseed (FS), a nutritional supplement consisting mainly of omega-3 fatty acids and lignan phenolics has potent anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic and antioxidant properties. The usefulness of flaxseed as an alternative and complimentary treatment option has been known since ancient times. We have shown that dietary FS supplementation ameliorates oxidative stress and inflammation in experimental models of acute and chronic lung injury in mice resulting from diverse toxicants. The development of lung tissue damage in response to direct or indirect oxidant stress is a complex process, associated with changes in expression levels of a number of genes. We therefore postulated that flaxseed might modulate gene expression of vital signaling pathways, thus interfering with the development of tissue injury.
We evaluated gene expression in lungs of flaxseed-fed (10%FS) mice under unchallenged, control conditions. We reasoned that array technology would provide a powerful tool for studying the mechanisms behind this response and aid the evaluation of dietary flaxseed intervention with a focus on toxicologically relevant molecular gene targets. Gene expression levels in lung tissues were analyzed using a large-scale array whereby 28,800 genes were evaluated.
3,713 genes (12.8 %) were significantly (p < 0.05) differentially expressed, of which 2,088 had a >1.5-fold change. Genes affected by FS include those in protective pathways such as Phase I and Phase II.
The array studies have provided information on how FS modulates gene expression in lung and how they might be related to protective mechanisms. In addition, our study has confirmed that flaxseed is a nutritional supplement with potentially useful therapeutic applications in complementary and alternative (CAM) medicine especially in relation to treatment of lung disease.