Reduced brain levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids [arachidonic acid and docosahexanoic acid (DHA)] are observed in elderly subjects and patients with Alzheimer's disease.

To determine the effects of n-3 fatty acids on aged rat brain, 2-year-old rats were fed fish oil (27% DHA content) for 1 month, and gene expression analysis and fatty acid and molecular species composition of the major phospholipid species were assessed.

No significant alteration could be observed in the fatty acid composition of ethanolamine phosphoglycerides and phosphatidylserines with the exception of DHA, which was slightly higher in brains of rats receiving fish oil. However, a drastic reduction in arachidonic acid in phosphatidylinositoles was observed.

The expression of 23 genes was altered in response to fish oil feeding in the hippocampus. The transcription of transthyretin (TTR) was induced by 10-fold as evidenced by microarray analysis and confirmed by real-time quantitative RT-PCR.

Expression of IL-1 and NO synthase, which has been implicated in the prevention of neurological diseases, was unaltered.

TTR is an amyloid beta protein scavenger, so an increase in its expression could prevent amyloid aggregate formation.

We believe the beneficial effects of fish oil might be common to other agents, i.e., induce TTR expression, like nicotine and Ginkgo biloba extract.

PMID: 12566565

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