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Distribution, depletion and recovery of docosahexaenoic acid are region-specific in rat brain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2007

Ying Xiao
Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme, Department of Biochemistry, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong, China Department of Nutrition and Food Hygiene, University Health Science Center, Peking University, Beijing, China
Yu Huang
Department of Physiology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong, China
Zhen-Yu Chen*
Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme, Department of Biochemistry, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong, China
*Corresponding author: Dr Zhen-Yu Chen, fax +852 2603 7246, email
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The present study examined: (i) age-induced regional changes in fatty acid composition of brain phospholipids; (ii) α-linolenic acid deficiency-induced regional depletion and recovery of DHA in the brain. DHA and arachidonic acid (AA) did not distribute evenly in the brain. In weaning and adult rats, the region with the highest DHA percentage was the cortex whereas the medulla had the lowest DHA percentage. In the aged rats, both the cortex and cerebellum were the regions with the highest DHA percentage whereas in the neonatal rats, the striatum had the greatest percentage of DHA, and the hypothalamus and hippocampus had the least percentage of DHA. Regarding AA, the hippocampus was the region that had the highest percentage whereas the medulla was the region with the lowest percentage except for the neonatal rats, whose cerebellum, hypothalamus, striatum and midbrain had AA percentage lower than hippocampus and cortex. DHA was not proportionally depleted in various regions of brain when the rats were maintained on an n-3-deficient diet for two generations. The results demonstrated that the cortex, hippocampus, striatum, cerebellum and hypothalamus had DHA depleted by >71 %, whereas the midbrain and medulla had only 64 and 57 % DHA depleted, respectively. The most important observation was that the diet reversal for 12 weeks resulted in complete DHA recovery in all regions except for the medulla where the recovery was only 62 %. It was concluded that the location of DHA, n-3 deficiency-induced DHA depletion and reversibility of DHA deficiency across the brain were region-specific.

Research Article
Copyright © The Nutrition Society 2005


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