Send to

Choose Destination
Chem Phys Lipids. 2018 May;212:73-79. doi: 10.1016/j.chemphyslip.2018.01.002. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid have distinct membrane locations and lipid interactions as determined by X-ray diffraction.

Author information

Elucida Research LLC, Beverly, MA, 01915-0091, USA. Electronic address:
Elucida Research LLC, Beverly, MA, 01915-0091, USA; Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115-6110, USA. Electronic address:


Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) differentially influence lipid oxidation, signal transduction, fluidity, and cholesterol domain formation, potentially due in part to distinct membrane interactions. We used small angle X-ray diffraction to evaluate the EPA and DHA effects on membrane structure. Membrane vesicles composed of 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) and cholesterol (C) (0.3C:POPC mole ratio) were prepared and treated with vehicle, EPA, or DHA (1:10 mol ratio to POPC). Electron density profiles generated from the diffraction data showed that EPA increased membrane hydrocarbon core electron density over a broad area, up to ± 20 Å from the membrane center, indicating an energetically favorable extended orientation for EPA likely stabilized by van der Waals interactions. By contrast, DHA increased electron density in the phospholipid head group region starting at ± 12 Å from the membrane center, presumably due to DHA-surface interactions, with coincident reduction in electron density in the membrane hydrocarbon core centered ± 7-9 Å from the membrane center. The membrane width (d-space) decreased by 5 Å in the presence of vehicle as the temperature increased from 10 °C to 30 °C due to increased acyl chain trans-gauche isomerizations, which was unaffected by addition of EPA or DHA. The influence of DHA on membrane structure was modulated by temperature changes while the interactions of EPA were unaffected. The contrasting EPA and DHA effects on membrane structure indicate distinct molecular locations and orientations that may contribute to observed differences in biological activity.


Membrane structure; Omega-3 fatty acids; X-ray diffraction

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center