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Leukemia. 1992 Jul;6(7):680-8.

Increased cytotoxicity of polyunsaturated fatty acids on human tumoral B and T-cell lines compared with normal lymphocytes.

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain.


Epidemiological and experimental data suggest that fatty acids may modulate the growth of tumor cells. We have analyzed the effect of different types of fatty acids, bound to serum proteins in physiological conditions, on the lipid composition and growth of human neoplastic B and T-cell lines and compared their effect on normal lymphocyte proliferation. Fatty acids with 0 to 2 unsaturations (stearic, oleic, and linoleic), at concentrations up to 50 or 100 microM did not significantly affect the proliferation of leukemic cells. However, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and mainly docosahexaenoic (22:6, n-3), were cytotoxic at concentrations greater than or equal to 20 microM after 48-72 h in culture. Simultaneous supplementation with vitamin E restored normal cell growth. The amount of end-products of lipid peroxidation in cells correlated with the observed toxicity but the amount of superoxides did not. Fatty acid supplementations increased cell triacylglycerol content but did not affect the degree of unsaturation of phospholipids, cholesterol/phospholipids molar ratio, or membrane fluidity. Glutathione-S-transferase activity was low in Raji and CEM cells, moderate in lymphocytes and high in Ramos cells and did not increase with supplementations. The proliferation of normal lymphocytes, which produced lower amounts of end-products of lipid perodixation, was not inhibited, but in some cases stimulated, by PUFA (with the exception of 30 microM 22:6). The extension of these results to situations in vivo could lead to use of PUFA for delaying leukemia progression or in adjuvant chemotherapy.

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