Roles of Docosahexaenoic and Eicosapentaenoic Acids in Brain

  • Akhlaq A. Farooqui

Docosahexaenoic acid (22:6 n−3, DHA) is an important essential polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that contains six cis double bonds located at positions 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 19. Eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5 n−3, EPA) is a 20-carbon fatty acid with five cis double bonds located at positions 4, 7, 10, 13, and 16. These essential fatty acids are found in fish and fish oil. Plant-derived sources of DHA and EPA precursors include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, and soybean oil. DHA and EPA incorporate into neural membrane glycerophospholipids, where they support neural cell membrane integrity and functions. DHA contents of brain vary considerably from one region to another, with the highest levels in the frontal cortex and the lowest in the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (Levant et al., 2006). Increased availability of DHA produces elevation in DHA content only in the olfactory bulb, parietal cortex, and substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area. In contrast, treatments that lower whole-brain DHA levels reduce DHA content in all brain regions except the thalamus, dorsal midbrain, and the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area. Alterations in DHA level can be caused by changes in docosapentaenoic acid (n−6 DPA, 22:5n−6) content; however, the change in DHA and n−6 DPA is nonreciprocal in some brain regions (Levant et al., 2006).


Fatty Acid Ratio Collective Evidence Plasma Membrane Target Ramos Cell Neural Membrane 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular and Cellular BiochemistryThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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