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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011 Aug;4(8):1267-74. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-10-0368. Epub 2011 Apr 13.

Dietary fish oil promotes colonic apoptosis and mitochondrial proton leak in oxidatively stressed mice.

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  • 1Program in Integrative Nutrition & Complex Diseases, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA.


An alteration of mitochondrial function can result in disruption of redox homeostasis and is associated with abnormal cancer cell growth. Manganese superoxide dismutase (SOD2) and glutathione peroxidase 4 (Gpx4) are two of the most important antioxidant defense enzymes that protect cells against oxidative stress. We had previously shown that n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) promote colonocyte apoptosis, a marker of colon cancer risk, in part by enhancing phospholipid oxidation. To elucidate the mechanisms regulating oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in vivo, we fed heterozygous SOD2(Het), Gpx4(Het), and transgenic Gpx4(Tg) mice diets containing either 15% corn oil by weight (CO, enriched in n-6 PUFA) or 3.5% CO + 11.5% fish oil (FO, enriched in n-3 PUFA) for 4 weeks. Our data showed that (i) genetic predeposition to oxidative stress facilitates apoptosis in the mouse colon (Gpx4(Het) > SOD2(Het) > Wt > Gpx4(Tg)), (ii) dietary n-3 PUFA have an additive effect on the induction of apoptosis in Gpx4(Het) and SOD2(Het) mice; and (iii) dietary n-3 PUFA reverse the phenotype in oxidatively protected Gpx4(Tg) mice by elevating apoptosis to a level observed in wild-type (Wt; control) animals. Complimentary experiments examining colonic mitochondrial bioenergetic profiles indicate that FO-fed mice exhibit a significantly (P < 0.05) increased respiration-induced proton leak relative to control CO treatment. This finding was consistent with a loss of membrane potential in response to chronic oxidative stress and supports the contention that n-3 PUFA alter mitochondrial metabolic activity, thereby enhancing apoptosis and reducing colon cancer risk.

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