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Effects of fish and krill oil on gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and circulating markers of inflammation: a randomised controlled trial

  • Amanda Rundblad (a1), Kirsten B. Holven (a2) (a3), Inge Bruheim (a4), Mari C. Myhrstad (a1) and Stine M. Ulven (a2)...


Marine n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids alter gene expression by regulating the activity of transcription factors. Krill oil is a source of marine n-3 fatty acids that has been shown to modulate gene expression in animal studies; however, the effect in humans is not known. Hence, we aimed to compare the effect of intake of krill oil, lean and fatty fish with a similar content of n-3 fatty acids, and high-oleic sunflower oil (HOSO) with added astaxanthin on the expression of genes involved in glucose and lipid metabolism and inflammation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) as well as circulating inflammatory markers. In an 8-week trial, healthy men and women aged 18–70 years with fasting TAG of 1·3–4·0 mmol/l were randomised to receive krill oil capsules (n 12), HOSO capsules (n 12) or lean and fatty fish (n 12). The weekly intakes of marine n-3 fatty acids from the interventions were 4654, 0 and 4103 mg, respectively. The mRNA expression of four genes, PPAR γ coactivator 1A (PPARGC1A), steaoryl-CoA desaturase (SCD), ATP binding cassette A1 (ABCA1) and cluster of differentiation 40 (CD40), were differently altered by the interventions. Furthermore, within-group analyses revealed that krill oil down-regulated the mRNA expression of thirteen genes, including genes involved in glucose and cholesterol metabolism and β-oxidation. Fish altered the mRNA expression of four genes and HOSO down-regulated sixteen genes, including several inflammation-related genes. There were no differences between the groups in circulating inflammatory markers after the intervention. In conclusion, the intake of krill oil and HOSO with added astaxanthin alter the PBMC mRNA expression of more genes than the intake of fish.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: Stine M. Ulven, email


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Current address: Møreforsking Ålesund, PO Box 5075, Larsgården, 6021 Ålesund, Norway.



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