Pediatric Surgery International

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 335–340 | Cite as

Modulation of immune cell function by polyunsaturated fatty acids

  • Brian Sweeney
  • Prem Puri
  • Denis J. Reen
Review Article


The n–3 and n–6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential dietary constituents. They are important as a source of energy, as structural components of cell membranes, and as signalling molecules. They have been demonstrated to be potent modulators of the immune response, and research has endeavoured to optimise the ratio of n–3 to n–6 PUFAs in the lipid component of total parenteral nutrition (TPN) to optimise their beneficial effects in the clinical setting. Critically ill neonates on TPN have an increased incidence of sepsis, and additional studies have determined that lipid emulsions depress various elements of cellular immune responses in monocytes, lymphocytes, and neutrophils. It has been proposed that PUFAs may mediate their manifold effects through the modification of eicosanoid production and by directly or indirectly modifying intracellular signal transduction pathways, including the alteration of gene transcription, in various tissues. They are susceptible to lipid peroxidation, and there is evidence that the products of this process may result in cell death by apoptosis, a nonphlogistic homeostatic process of cell deletion. PUFAs have been shown to induce apoptosis in primary lymphocytes, colonic mucosal cells, and various cell lines. Additionally, our laboratory has shown them to be potent inducers of apoptosis in neonatal monocytes. This may represent a novel mechanism whereby PUFAs may modify the immune response.


Polyunsaturated fatty acids TPN Immunomodulation Review 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Children’s Research CentreUniversity College Dublin, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick ChildrenDublinIreland
  2. 2.Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical ResearchUniversity College Dublin, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick ChildrenDublinIreland

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