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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1991 Apr 3;1082(3):319-27.

Modification of liver fatty acid metabolism in mice by n-3 and n-6 delta 6-desaturase substrates and products.

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Efamol Research Institute, Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada.


The effects of dietary supplementation of either alpha-linolenic acid (18:3(n-3)) or stearidonic acid (18:4(n-3)) in combination with either linoleic acid (18:2(n-6)) or gamma-linolenic acid (18:3(n-6)) on liver fatty acid composition in mice were examined. Essential fatty acid deficient male C57BL/6 mice were separated into four groups of seven each and were fed a fat-free semi-purified diet supplemented with 1% (w/w) fatty acid methyl ester mixture (1:1), 18:2(n-6)/18:3(n-3), 18:2(n-6)/18:4(n-3), 18:3(n-6)/18:3(n-3), or 18:3(n-6)/18:4(n-3). After 7 days on the diets, fatty acid compositions in liver phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine fractions were analyzed. In groups fed 18:4(n-3) (18:2(n-6)/18:4(n-3) or 18:3(n-6)/18:4(n-3)) as compared to those fed 18:3(n-3) (18:2(n-6)/18:3(n-3) or 18:3(n-6)/18:3(n-3)), the levels of 20:4(n-3), 20:5(n-3) and 22:5(n-3) were increased, whereas those of 20:3(n-6) and 20:4(n-6) were decreased. When 18:3(n-6) replaced 18:2(n-6) as the source of n-6 acids, the levels of 18:3(n-6), 20:3(n-6), 20:4(n-6) and 22:5(n-6) were increased, whereas those of 20:4(n-3) and 20:5(n-3) were reduced. Replacing 18:3(n-3) by 18:4(n-3) reduced the (n-6)/(n-3) ratio by approx. 30%, whereas replacing 18:2(n-6) by 18:3(n-6) increased the (n-6)/(n-3) ratio by approx. 2-fold. These findings indicated that delta 6-desaturase products were metabolized more readily than their precursors. Both products also competed for the subsequent metabolic enzymes. However, the n-6 fatty acids derived from 18:3(n-6) were incorporated more favourably into liver phospholipids than n-3 fatty acids derived from 18:4(n-3).

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