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J Nutr. 1997 Jan;127(1):37-43.

Dietary (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids suppress murine lymphoproliferation, interleukin-2 secretion, and the formation of diacylglycerol and ceramide.

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  • 1Faculty of Nutrition, Molecular and Cell Biology Group, College of Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843, USA.


Elucidation of the mechanism(s) by which dietary fish oil, enriched in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5(n-3)] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA, 22:6(n-3)], suppresses the inflammatory process is essential in maximizing this potentially therapeutic effect. Murine T-lymphocyte function and signal transduction were examined in response to a low fat, short term diet enriched in highly purified EPA or DHA ethyl esters. For 10 d, mice were fed comparable diets containing either 3% safflower oil ethyl esters (SAF), 2% SAF + 1% arachidonic acid triglyceride (AA), 2% SAF + 1% EPA, or 2% SAF + 1% DHA. Concanavalin A-induced T-lymphocyte proliferation in splenocyte cultures was significantly suppressed by dietary EPA and DHA while AA had no effect relative to the SAF control. The suppressed proliferative response in EPA- and DHA-fed mice was preceded temporally by a significant reduction in IL-2 secretion. Kinetics of mitogen-induced diacyl-sn-glycerol (DAG) and ceramide production did not differ significantly between SAF and AA diet groups. In contrast, DAG production was significantly suppressed in EP- and DHA-fed mice relative to the SAF and AA groups. The reduced DAG mass was paralleled by reduced ceramide mass following EPA and DHA feeding compared to the SAF and AA groups. Thus, low dose, short term dietary exposure to highly purified EPA or DHA appears to suppress mitogen-induced T-lymphocyte proliferation by inhibiting IL-2 secretion, and these events are accompanied by reductions in the production of essential lipid second messengers, DAG and ceramide.

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