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Versatile roles of docosahexaenoic acid in the prenatal brain: from pro- and anti-oxidant features to regulation of gene expression

Yavin E (2006) Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 75(3) 203-11. Epub 2006 Jul 12. 

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Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most ubiquitous polyunsaturated fatty acid (FA) in brain tissue. It is selectively esterified to amino phospholipids (PL) and therefore it is highly prevalent at the cytofacial site of the plasma membrane where it may specifically participate in intracellular events.

A highly selective DHA accumulation prior to birth is the result of maternal supply via the placenta through a bio-magnification process. Supplements of DHA via the intra-amniotic route to the fetal rat increase brain DHA levels and also confer neuroprotection to fetuses subjected to global ischemic stress. The protective effect has been attributed to an enhanced free radical scavenging capacity of DHA.

Dietary deprivation of linolenic acid (LNA) during the perinatal life on the other hand, resulted in losses of DHA from cerebral PLs [M. Schiefermeier, E. Yavin, n-3 deficient and DHA-enriched diets during critical periods of the developing prenatal rat brain, J. Lipid Res. 43 (2002) 124-131]. LNA deprivation also caused changes in a number of gene markers the identification of which was attained by a labor-intensive suppression subtractive hybridization protocol using mRNA from 2-week-old postnatal brains [E. Yakubov, P. Dinerman, F. Kuperstein, S. Saban, E. Yavin, Improved representation of gene markers on microarray by PCR-select subtracted cDNA targets, Mol. Brain Res. 137 (2005) 110-118].

Most notable was a remarkable elevation of dopamine (DA) receptor (D1 and D2) genes as evaluated by quantitative RT-PCR, SDS-PAGE gel electrophoresis and immunochemical staining [F. Kuperstein, E. Yakubov, P. Dinerman, S. Gil, R. Eylam, N. Salem Jr., E. Yavin, Overexpression of dopamine receptor genes and their products in the postnatal rat brain following maternal n-3 FA dietary deficiency, J. Neurochem. 95 (2005) 1550-1562].

Over-expression of DA receptors has been attributed to a compensatory mechanism resulting from impairment in DA neurotransmitter production, storage and processing. In conclusion, DHA is a versatile molecule with a wide range of actions spanning from participation in cellular oxidative processes and intracellular signaling to modulatory roles in gene expression and growth regulation.