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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Jun 13;1583(1):74-84.

Gamma-linolenic acid alters the composition of mitochondrial membrane subfractions, decreases outer mitochondrial membrane binding of hexokinase and alters carnitine palmitoyltransferase I properties in the Walker 256 rat tumour.

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  • Departamento de Histologia e Embriologia, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas, Universidade de São Paulo, CEP 05508-900, Brazil. alisonusp@hotmail.com


Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is known to be an inhibitor of Walker 256 tumour growth in vivo and causes changes in both mitochondrial structure and cellular metabolism. The aim of the present study was to investigate in greater detail the changes in energy metabolism and ultrastructure induced by GLA in this tumour model. A diet containing 5.5% GLA, which is sufficient to cause a 45% decrease in tumour growth, was found to almost double the triacylglycerol (TAG) content of the tumour and to increase the quantity of 20:3 n-6, 20:4 n-6, 22:4 n-6 and 22:5 n-6 in the TAG fraction as determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) analysis. Morphometric analysis of the tumour by electron microscopy confirmed this increase in TAG content, identifying a doubling of lipid droplet content in the GLA dietary group. The surface density of mitochondrial cristae was reduced, along with a reduction in the number of contact sites (CS) and matrix granules. These three parameters are likely indicators of a reduction in mitochondrial metabolic activity. Measurement of hexokinase activity identified that much of the total hexokinase activity was in the mitochondrially bound form (66.5%) in the control tumour and that GLA caused a decrease in the amount of enzyme in the bound form (39.3%). The fatty acyl chain composition of the tumour mitochondrial subfractions, outer membranes (OM), CSs and inner membranes (IM) was determined by GCMS. All subfractions showed considerable increases in 20:3 n-6 and decreases in 18:1 n-9, 18:2 n-6 and 22:6 n-3, when exposed to GLA diet. These changes were reflected in a large increase in the n-6/n-3 ratio in the GLA OM vs. the control OM, 21.299 vs. 6.747, respectively. The maximal activity of OM carnitine palmitoyltransferase I (CPT I) was found to be decreased by 61.6% in the GLA diet group. This was accompanied by a decrease in malonyl CoA sensitivity and a decrease in affinity for 16:0 CoA substrate. Such changes in CPT I may be the cause of cytoplasmic acyl CoA accumulation seen in this tumour model. These effects, together with previously reported increases in lipid peroxidation, lead to the conclusion that GLA may cause inhibition of tumour cell growth through separate but interlinked pathways, all of which eventually lead to apoptosis and a decrease in tumour development. The influence of mitochondrial OM fatty acyl chain composition upon two important enzymes of energy metabolism, hexokinase and CPT I, both of which have been linked to apoptosis, is of considerable importance for future studies on fatty acid-induced cell death.

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