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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Feb;1801(2):95-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2009.10.010. Epub 2009 Oct 30.

The function of very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the pineal gland.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Fisicoquímicas Teóricas y Aplicadas, (INIFTA-CCT La Plata-CONICET), Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina.


The mammalian pineal gland is a prominent secretory organ with a high metabolic activity. Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine), the main secretory product of the pineal gland, efficiently scavenges both the hydroxyl and peroxyl radicals counteracting lipid peroxidation in biological membranes. Approximately 25% of the total fatty acids present in the rat pineal lipids are represented by arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3). These very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids play important roles in the pineal gland. In addition to the production of melatonin, the mammalian pineal gland is able of convert these polyunsaturated fatty acids into bioactive lipid mediators. Lipoxygenation is the principal lipoxygenase (LOX) activity observed in the rat pineal gland. Lipoxygenation in the pineal gland is exceptional because no other brain regions express significant LOX activities under normal physiological conditions. The rat pineal gland expresses both 12- and 15-lipoxygenase (LOX) activities, producing 12- and 15-hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12- and 15-HpETE) from arachidonic acid and 14- and 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid (14- and 17-HdoHE) from docosahexaenoic acid, respectively. The rat pineal also produces hepoxilins via LOX pathways. The hepoxilins are bioactive epoxy-hydroxy products of the arachidonic acid metabolism via the 12S-lipoxygenase (12S-LOX) pathway. The two key pineal biochemical functions, lipoxygenation and melatonin synthesis, may be synergistically regulated by the status of n-3 essential fatty acids.

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