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J Lipid Res. 2001 Mar;42(3):419-27.

Reversal of docosahexaenoic acid deficiency in the rat brain, retina, liver, and serum.

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Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry & Biophysics, National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The loss of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from the retina or brain has been associated with a loss in nervous-system function in experimental animals, as well as in human infants fed vegetable oil-based formulas. The reversibility of the loss of DHA and the compensation by an increase in the n-6 docosapentaenoic acid (DPAn-6) was studied in young adult rats. Long-Evans rats were subjected to a very low level of n-3 fatty acids through two generations. The F2 generation, n-3-deficient animals at 7 weeks of age were provided a repletion diet containing both alpha-linolenate and DHA. A separate group of F2 generation rats had been maintained on an n-3-adequate diet of the same composition. Tissues from the brain, retina, liver, and serum were collected on weeks 0, 1, 2, 4, and 8 from both groups of animals. The concentrations of DHA, DPAn-6, and other fatty acids were determined and the rate of recovery and length of time needed to complete DHA recovery were determined for each tissue. The DHA level in the brain at 1 and 2 weeks after diet reversal was only partially recovered, rising to approximately 20% and 35%, respectively, of the n-3-adequate group level. Full recovery was not obtained until 8 weeks after initiation of the repletion diet. Although the initial rate of retinal DHA accretion was greater than that of brain DHA, the half-time for DHA recovery was only marginally greater. On the other hand, the levels of DHA in the serum and liver were approximately 90% and 100% replaced, respectively, within 2 weeks of diet reversal. A consideration of the total amounts and time courses of DHA repleted in the nervous system compared with the liver and circulation suggests that transport-related processes may limit the rate of DHA repletion in the retina and brain.-- Moriguchi, T., J. Loewke, M. Garrison, J. N. Catalan, N. Salem, Jr. Reversal of docosahexaenoic acid deficiency in the rat brain, retina, liver, and serum. J. Lipid Res. 2001. 42: 419--427.

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