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J Immunol. 2005 May 1;174(9):5390-7.

Saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids reciprocally modulate dendritic cell functions mediated through TLR4.

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  • 1U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Western Human Nutrition Research Center, and Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


TLRs provide critical signals to induce innate immune responses in APCs such as dendritic cells (DCs) that in turn link to adaptive immune responses. Results from our previous studies demonstrated that saturated fatty acids activate TLRs, whereas n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids inhibit agonist-induced TLR activation. These results raise a significant question as to whether fatty acids differentially modulate immune responses mediated through TLR activation. The results presented in this study demonstrate that the saturated fatty acid, lauric acid, up-regulates the expression of costimulatory molecules (CD40, CD80, and CD86), MHC class II, and cytokines (IL-12p70 and IL-6) in bone marrow-derived DCs. The dominant negative mutant of TLR4 or its downstream signaling components inhibits lauric acid-induced expression of a CD86 promoter-reporter gene. In contrast, an n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, inhibits TLR4 agonist (LPS)-induced up-regulation of the costimulatory molecules, MHC class II, and cytokine production. Similarly, DCs treated with lauric acid show increased T cell activation capacity, whereas docosahexaenoic acid inhibits T cell activation induced by LPS-treated DCs. Together, our results demonstrate that the reciprocal modulation of both innate and adaptive immune responses by saturated fatty acid and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid is mediated at least in part through TLRs. These results imply that TLRs are involved in sterile inflammation and immune responses induced by nonmicrobial endogenous molecules. These results shed new light in understanding how types of dietary fatty acids differentially modulate immune responses that could alter the risk of many chronic diseases.

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