Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid with beneficial effects in obesity and insulin resistance. High levels of proinflammatory cytokine tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) in obesity promote lipolysis in adipocytes, leading to the development of insulin resistance. Thus, the aims of the present study were to analyze the potential antilipolytic properties of EPA on cytokine-induced lipolysis and to investigate the possible mechanisms involved.

The EPA effects on basal and TNF-α-induced lipolysis were determined in both primary rat and 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Treatment of primary rat adipocytes with EPA (100 and 200 μM) significantly decreased basal glycerol release (P<.01) and prevented cytokine-induced lipolysis in a dose-dependent manner (P<.001). Moreover, EPA decreased TNF-α-induced activation of nuclear factor-κB and extracellular-related kinase 1/2 phosphorylation. In addition, the antilipolytic action of EPA was stimulated by the AMP-kinase (AMPK) activator 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-b-d-ribofuranoside and blocked by the AMPK-inhibitor compound C.

Moreover, we found that EPA stimulated hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) phosphorylation on serine-565, which further supports the involvement of AMPK in EPA's antilipolytic actions. Eicosapentaenoic acid treatment (24 h), alone and in the presence of TNF-α, also decreased adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) protein content in cultured adipocytes. However, oral supplementation with EPA for 35 days was able to partially reverse the down-regulation of HSL and ATGL messenger RNA observed in retroperitoneal adipose tissue of high-fat-diet-fed rats.

These findings suggest that EPA inhibits proinflammatory cytokine-induced lipolysis in adipocytes. This effect might contribute to explain the insulin-sensitizing properties of EPA.