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J Nutr. 2003 Feb;133(2):496-503.

(n-3) Polyunsaturated fatty acids promote activation-induced cell death in murine T lymphocytes.

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Molecular and Cell Biology Section, Faculty of Nutrition, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA.


Previous studies showing dietary (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) attenuate T cell immune-mediated inflammatory diseases led us to hypothesize that (n-3) PUFA promote activation-induced cell death (AICD) in T cells. Because T cell subsets display a differential resistance to AICD, we compared the effects of (n-3) PUFA feeding on T cells stimulated in vitro to express different cytokine profiles. Mice were fed either diets lacking (n-3) PUFA (control) or (n-3) PUFA-containing diets for 14 d. Splenic T cells were stimulated with alphaCD3/alphaCD28, phorbol myristate acetate (PMA)/Ionomycin or alphaCD3/PMA for 48 h, followed by reactivation with the same stimuli for 5 h. Apoptosis was measured using Annexin V/propidium iodide. (n-3) PUFA were selectively incorporated into membrane phospholipid pools. Cytokine analyses revealed that (n-3) PUFA enhanced AICD only in T cells expressing a T helper cell (Th)1-like cytokine profile after stimulation with PMA/Ionomycin compared to mice fed the (n-6) PUFA control diet (P = 0.0008). In contrast, no increase in apoptosis was seen in T cells stimulated with alphaCD3/PMA, which exhibited a Th2 cytokine profile. These data demonstrate that the ability of (n-3) PUFA to promote AICD is dependent on the activation stimulus. In conclusion, we have identified a novel mechanism by which (n-3) PUFA modulate T cell-mediated immunity by selective deletion of Th1-like cells while maintaining or enhancing the Th2-mediated humoral immune response.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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