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Immunology. Jan 1992; 75(1): 108–115.
PMCID: PMC1384811

The inhibition of T-lymphocyte proliferation by fatty acids is via an eicosanoid-independent mechanism.


Eicosanoids, in particular prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), are potent inhibitors of a number of immune responses, including lymphocyte proliferation. We have previously shown that fatty acids, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), inhibit mitogen-stimulated proliferation of lymphocytes. One mechanism by which fatty acids could exert their inhibitory effect is via modulation of eicosanoid synthesis. This possibility was investigated in the present study. PGE2 concentrations in the medium taken from lymphocytes cultured in the presence of a range of different fatty acids did not correlate with the inhibitory effects of the fatty acids upon lymphocyte proliferation. Although PGE2 at concentrations above 10 nM caused inhibition of lymphocyte proliferation, PGE2 at the concentration measured in lymphocyte culture medium (0.3-4 nM) was not inhibitory. PGE3 did not inhibit lymphocyte proliferation, except at high concentrations (greater than 250 nM). The maximal inhibition of proliferation caused by PGE2 or PGE3 was less than the inhibition caused by each of the fatty acids except myristic or palmitic acids. Inclusion of inhibitors of phospholipase A2, cyclo-oxygenase or lipoxygenase in the culture medium did not prevent the fatty acids from exerting their inhibitory effect on lymphocyte proliferation. The eicosanoids present in lymph node cell cultures originate from macrophages rather than lymphocytes. Depletion of macrophages from the cell preparation by adherence did not prevent fatty acids from inhibiting proliferation. Proliferation of thoracic duct lymphocytes, which are devoid of macrophages, is inhibited by fatty acids to a similar extent as proliferation of lymph node lymphocytes. These observations provide convincing evidence that the inhibition of lymphocyte proliferation by fatty acids is independent of the production of eicosanoids. Therefore, other mechanisms must be investigated if the effect of fatty acids upon lymphocyte proliferation is to be understood at a biochemical level.

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Selected References

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