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Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2004 Mar;7(2):151-6.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids and gene expression.

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USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030-2600, USA.



This review focuses on the effect(s) of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on gene transcription as determined by data generated using cDNA microarrays. Introduced within the past decade, this methodology allows detection of the expression of thousands of genes simultaneously and, hence, is a potentially powerful tool for studying the regulation of physiological mechanisms that are triggered or inhibited by nutrients.


Recent data generated with cDNA microarrays not only confirm the effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on regulation of lipolytic and lipogenic gene expression as determined by more traditional methods but also emphasize the tissue specificity of this regulation. cDNA microarray experiments also have expanded our understanding of the role of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in regulation of expression of genes involved in many other pathways. These include: oxidative stress response and antioxidant capacity; cell proliferation; cell growth and apoptosis; cell signaling and cell transduction.


The cDNA microarray studies published to date show clearly that n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, usually provided as fish oil, modulate expression of a number of genes with such broad functions as DNA binding, transcriptional regulation, transport, cell adhesion, cell proliferation, and membrane localization. These effects, in turn, may significantly modify cell function, development and/or maturation.

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