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Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2010 Feb-Mar;82(2-3):111-9. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2009.12.002. Epub 2010 Jan 8.

Age-related changes of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the anterior cingulate cortex of individuals with major depressive disorder.

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Medical Research Service, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Accumulating evidence finds a relative deficiency of peripheral membrane fatty acids in persons with affective disorders such as unipolar and bipolar depression. Here we sought to investigate whether postmortem brain fatty acids within the anterior cingulate cortex (BA-24) varied according to the presence of major depression at the time of death. Using capillary gas chromatography we measured fatty acids in a depressed group (n=12), and in a control group without lifetime history of psychiatric diagnosis (n=14). Compared to the control group, the depressed group showed significantly lower concentrations of numerous saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids including both the n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. Additionally, significant correlations between age at death and precursor (or metabolites) in the n-3 fatty acid pathway were demonstrated in the depressed group but not in control subjects. In the n-6 fatty acid family, the ratio of 20:3(n-6)/18:2(n-6) was higher in patients than in control groups, whereas the ratio of 20:4(n-6)/20:3(n-6) was relatively decreased in patients. Lastly, a significant negative correlation between age and the ratio of 20:4(n-6) to 22:6(n-3) was found in patients, but not in controls. Taken together, decreases in 22:6(n-3) may be caused, at least in part, by the diminished formation of 20:5(n-3), which is derived from 20:4(n-3) through a Delta5 desaturase reaction. The present findings from postmortem brain tissue raise the possibility that an increased ratio of 20:4(n-6) to 22:6(n-3) may provide us with a biomarker for depression. Future research should further investigate these relationships.

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