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J Lipid Res. 2007 Dec;48(12):2709-24. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

Whole body distribution of deuterated linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids and their metabolites in the rat.

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Section of Nutritional Neuroscience, Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-9410, USA.


Little is known about the uptake or metabolism of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in various mammalian organs. Thus, the distribution of deuterated alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) and linoleic acid (18:2n-6) and their metabolites was studied using a stable isotope tracer technique. Rats were orally administered a single dose of a mixture (20 mg each) of ethyl D5-18:3n-3 and D5-18:2n-6, and 25 tissues per animal were analyzed for D5-labeled PUFAs at 4, 8, 24, 96, 168, 240, 360, and 600 h after dosing. Plasma, stomach, and spleen contained the highest concentrations of labeled precursors at the earliest time points, whereas other internal organs and red blood cells reached their maximal concentrations at 8 h. The time-course data were consistent with liver metabolism of EFAs, but local metabolism in other tissues could not be ruled out. Brain, spinal cord, heart, testis, and eye accumulated docosahexaenoic acid with time, whereas skin accumulated mainly 20:4n-6. On average, approximately 16-18% of the D5-18:3n-3 and D5-18:2n-6 initial dosage was eventually accumulated in tissues, principally in adipose, skin, and muscle. Approximately 6.0% of D5-18:3n-3 and 2.6% of D5-18:2n-6 were elongated/desaturated and stored, mainly in muscle, adipose, and the carcass. The remaining 78% of both precursors was apparently catabolized or excreted.

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