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Polyunsaturated fatty acids: conversion to lipid mediators, roles in inflammatory diseases and dietary sources

Harwood, John L. ORCID: 2023. Polyunsaturated fatty acids: conversion to lipid mediators, roles in inflammatory diseases and dietary sources. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 24 (10) , 8838. 10.3390/ijms24108838

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Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are important components of the diet of mammals. Their role was first established when the essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid were discovered nearly a century ago. However, most of the biochemical and physiological actions of PUFAs rely on their conversion to 20C or 22C acids and subsequent metabolism to lipid mediators. As a generalisation, lipid mediators formed from n-6 PUFAs are pro-inflammatory while those from n-3 PUFAs are anti-inflammatory or neutral. Apart from the actions of the classic eicosanoids or docosanoids, many newly discovered compounds are described as Specialised Pro-resolving Mediators (SPMs) which have been proposed to have a role in resolving inflammatory conditions such as infections and preventing them from becoming chronic. In addition, a large group of molecules, termed isoprostanes, can be generated by free radical reactions and these too have powerful properties towards inflammation. The ultimate source of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs are photosynthetic organisms which contain Δ-12 and Δ-15 desaturases, which are almost exclusively absent from animals. Moreover, the EFAs consumed from plant food are in competition with each other for conversion to lipid mediators. Thus, the relative amounts of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs in the diet are important. Furthermore, the conversion of the EFAs to 20C and 22C PUFAs in mammals is rather poor. Thus, there has been much interest recently in the use of algae, many of which make substantial quantities of long-chain PUFAs or in manipulating oil crops to make such acids. This is especially important because fish oils, which are their main source in human diets, are becoming limited. In this review, the metabolic conversion of PUFAs into different lipid mediators is described. Then, the biological roles and molecular mechanisms of such mediators in inflammatory diseases are outlined. Finally, natural sources of PUFAs (including 20 or 22 carbon compounds) are detailed, as well as recent efforts to increase their production.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Type: open-access
Publisher: MDPI
ISSN: 1661-6596
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 June 2023
Date of Acceptance: 5 May 2023
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2023 11:44

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