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Mol Psychiatry. 2007 Jan;12(1):36-46. Epub 2006 Sep 19.

n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid deprivation in rats decreases frontal cortex BDNF via a p38 MAPK-dependent mechanism.

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Brain Physiology and Metabolism Section, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Decreased docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) have been implicated in bipolar disorder. It also has been reported that dietary deprivation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) for 15 weeks in rats, increased their depression and aggression scores. Here, we show that n-3 PUFA deprivation for 15 weeks decreased the frontal cortex DHA level and reduced frontal cortex BDNF expression, cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) transcription factor activity and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activity. Activities of other CREB activating protein kinases were not significantly changed. The addition of DHA to rat primary cortical astrocytes in vitro, induced BDNF protein expression and this was blocked by a p38 MAPK inhibitor. DHA's ability to regulate BDNF via a p38 MAPK-dependent mechanism may contribute to its therapeutic efficacy in brain diseases having disordered cell survival and neuroplasticity.

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