Fish oil is considered a healthy food due to the presence of large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), especially in the form of n-3 fatty acids 5,8,11,14,17-eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3; EPA) and 4,7,10,13,16,19-docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3; DHA). However, fish oil is known to contain many other PUFAs, some of which are uncommon and whose bioactivity is scarcely investigated. In this study, we isolated the rare PUFA 6,9,12,15-hexadecatetraenoic fatty acid (16:4n-1) which bears a double bond on the terminal carbon from fish oil in form of its methyl ester. We used high-speed counter-current chromatography (HSCCC) for the fractionation of 500 mg-portions of fatty acid methyl esters prepared from a fish oil capsule and investigated the fractions by GC/MS. Twenty-eight 13-mL fractions were collected and fatty acid methyl esters were detected in fractions 11–23. The elution was carried out in normal phase mode, providing the long-chained saturated and monoenoic fatty acids first. More than 100 fatty acids ranging from 10:0 to 26:0 could be identified in the HSCCC fractions, and most of them were polyunsaturated. The reproducibility of the HSCCC method was shown by repeated injection of the fish oil and the fractions containing 6,9,12,15-hexadecatetraenoic fatty acid (16:4n-1). The late eluting 16:4n-1 methyl ester was isolated in pure form and its structure was verified.
High-speed counter-current chromatography Fish oil Polyunsaturated fatty acids 16:4n-1