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Lipids Health Dis. 2007 Apr 25;6:13.

Docosahexaenoic acid and n-6 docosapentaenoic acid supplementation alter rat skeletal muscle fatty acid composition.

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Laboratory of Nutritional and Nutraceutical Research, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada.



Docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3, DHA) and n-6 docosapentaenoic acid (22:5n-6, DPAn-6) are highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA, > or = 20 carbons, > or = 3 double bonds) that differ by a single carbon-carbon double bond at the Delta19 position. Membrane 22:6n-3 may support skeletal muscle function through optimal ion pump activity of sarcoplasmic reticulum and electron transport in the mitochondria. Typically n-3 fatty acid deficient feeding trials utilize linoleic acid (18:2n-6, LA) as a comparison group, possibly introducing a lower level of HUFA in addition to n-3 fatty acid deficiency. The use of 22:5n-6 as a dietary control is ideal for determining specific requirements for 22:6n-3 in various physiological processes. The incorporation of dietary 22:5n-6 into rat skeletal muscles has not been demonstrated previously. A one generation, artificial rearing model was utilized to supply 22:6n-3 and/or 22:5n-6 to rats from d2 after birth to adulthood. An n-3 fatty acid deficient, artificial milk with 18:2n-6 was supplemented with 22:6n-3 and/or 22:5n-6 resulting in four artificially reared (AR) dietary groups; AR-LA, AR-DHA, AR-DPAn-6, AR-DHA+DPAn-6. A dam reared group (DAM) was included as an additional control. Animals were sacrificed at 15 wks and soleus, white gastrocnemius and red gastrocnemius muscles were collected for fatty acid analyses.


In all muscles of the DAM group, the concentration of 22:5n-6 was significantly lower than 22:6n-3 concentrations. While 22:5n-6 was elevated in the AR-LA group and the AR-DPAn-6 group, 20:4n-6 tended to be higher in the AR-LA muscles and not in the AR-DPAn-6 muscles. The AR-DHA+DPAn-6 had a slight, but non-significant increase in 22:5n-6 content. In the red gastrocnemius of the AR-DPAn-6 group, 22:5n-6 levels (8.1 +/- 2.8 wt. %) did not reciprocally replace the 22:6n-3 levels observed in AR-DHA reared rats (12.2 +/- 2.3 wt. %) suggesting a specific preference/requirement for 22:6n-3 in red gastrocnemius.


Dietary 22:5n-6 is incorporated into skeletal muscles and appears to largely compete with 22:6n-3 for incorporation into lipids. In contrast, 18:2n-6 feeding tends to result in elevations of 20:4n-6 and restrained increases of 22:5n-6. As such, 22:5n-6 dietary comparison groups may be useful in elucidating specific requirements for 22:6n-3 to support optimal health and disease prevention.

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