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Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006 Oct-Nov;75(4-5):259-69. Epub 2006 Sep 11.

Omega-3 fatty acids and monoamine neurotransmission.

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Inserm U619, Tours, France.


We proposed several years ago that the behavioral effects of n-3 PUFA deficiency observed in animal models might be mediated through the dopaminergic and serotonergic systems that are very involved in the modulation of attention, motivation and emotion. We evaluated this hypothesis in an extended series of experiments on rats chronically diet-deficient in alpha-linolenic acid, the precursor of long-chain n-3 PUFA, in which we studied several parameters of these neurotransmission systems. The present paper synthesizes the main data we obtained on interactions between n-3 PUFA status and neurotransmission in animal models. We demonstrated that several parameters of neurotransmission were affected, such as the vesicular pool of dopamine and serotonin, thus inducing several regulatory processes such as modification of cerebral receptors in specific brain areas. We also demonstrated that (i) a reversal diet with adequate n-6 and n-3 PUFA given during the lactating period to rats originating from alpha-linolenic acid-deficient dams was able to restore both the fatty acid composition of brain membranes and several parameters of the dopaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmission, and (ii) when given from weaning, this reversal diet allowed partial recovery of biochemical parameters, but no recovery of neurochemical factors. The occurrence of profound n-3 PUFA deficiency during the lactating period could therefore be an environmental insult leading to irreversible damage to specific brain functions. Strong evidence is now showing that a profound n-3 PUFA experimental deficiency is able to alter several neurotransmission systems, at least the dopaminergic and serotonergic. Whether these experimental findings can be transposed to human pathophysiology must be taken cautiously, but reinforces the hypothesis that strong links exist between the PUFA status, aspects of brain function such as neurotransmission processes and behavior.

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