, Volume 36, Issue 9, pp 1043-1052

The intestinal mucosa as a target for dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids

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Several studies have reported beneficial effects of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) on various aspects of both human and animal health, and particular reference has been made to their effects on systemic immune responses. Both immune stimulation and immune suppression have been reported, with the outcome dependent on the type of PUFA, the target cell, as well as the immune competence of the cells before exposure. The systemic and the mucosal immune systems are discrete entities, which have evolved specific approaches in the defense of the host. The latter comprises several interconnected tissues, which communicate with one another through the action of soluble mediators and the trafficking of cellular components. After the oral mucosa, the intestinal epithelium and its associated gutassociated lymphoid tissue are the primary targets of dietary components. Absorption of dietary PUFA and its incorporation into intestinal tissues has been well studied, but the consequences of these events in relation to local immune responses have received little attention. This article describes some of the immune mechanisms operating at this barrier and, where possible, pinpoints areas for which a modulatory role for PUFA has already been demonstrated. Although not an exhaustive treatise of the subject, it is hoped that this review will foster research into the specific interaction between dietary PUFA and cell populations comprising the intestinal barrier.