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Curr Pharmacol Rep. 2015 Feb;1(1):11-20.

Chemoprotective epigenetic mechanisms in a colorectal cancer model: Modulation by n-3 PUFA in combination with fermentable fiber.

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Program in Integrative Nutrition & Complex Diseases and Departments of Biology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA.


Colorectal cancer is the third major cause of cancer-related mortality in both men and women worldwide. The beneficial role of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in preventing colon cancer is substantiated by experimental, epidemiological, and clinical data. From a mechanistic perspective, n-3 PUFA are pleiotropic and multifaceted with respect to their molecular mechanisms of action. For example, this class of dietary lipid uniquely modulates membrane and nuclear receptors, sensors/ion channels, and membrane structure/cytoskeletal function, thereby regulating signaling processes that influence patterns of gene expression and cell phenotype. In addition, n-3 PUFA can synergize with other potential chemoprotective agents known to reprogram the chromatin landscape, such as the fermentable fiber product, butyrate. Nutri-epigenomics is an emerging field of research that is focused on the interaction between nutrition and epigenetics. Epigenetics refers to a group of heterogeneous processes that regulate transcription without changing the DNA coding sequence, ranging from DNA methylation, to histone tail modifications and transcription factor activity. One implication of the nutri-epigenome is that it may be possible to reprogram epigenetic marks that are associated with increased disease risk by nutritional or lifestyle interventions. This review will focus on the nutri-epigenomic role of n-3 PUFA, particularly DHA, as well as the combinatorial effects of n-3 PUFA and fermentable fiber in relation to colon cancer.


Fish oil; chemoprevention; colon cancer; docosahexaenoic acid; fermentable fiber; nutri-epigenomics

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