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J Neurochem. 2008 May;105(4):1525-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05274.x. Epub 2008 Feb 4.

Docosahexaenoic acid synthesis from n-3 fatty acid precursors in rat hippocampal neurons.

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Department of Biochemistry, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the most abundant n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid in the brain, has important functions in the hippocampus. To better understand essential fatty acid homeostasis in this region of the brain, we investigated the contributions of n-3 fatty acid precursors in supplying hippocampal neurons with DHA. Primary cultures of rat hippocampal neurons incorporated radiolabeled 18-, 20-, 22-, and 24-carbon n-3 fatty acid and converted some of the uptake to DHA, but the amounts produced from either [1-14C]alpha-linolenic or [1-14C]eicosapentaenoic acid were considerably less than the amounts incorporated when the cultures were incubated with [1-14C]22:6n-3. Most of the [1-14C]22:6n-3 uptake was incorporated into phospholipids, primarily ethanolamine phosphoglycerides. Additional studies demonstrated that the neurons converted [1-14C]linoleic acid to arachidonic acid, the main n-6 fatty acid in the brain. These findings differ from previous results indicating that cerebral and cerebellar neurons cannot convert polyunsaturated fatty acid precursors to DHA or arachidonic acid. Fatty acid compositional analysis demonstrated that the hippocampal neurons contained only 1.1-2.5 mol% DHA under the usual low-DHA culture conditions. The relatively low-DHA content suggests that some responses obtained with these cultures may not be representative of neuronal function in the brain.

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