Transcription of the murine iNOS gene is inhibited by docosahexaenoic acid, a major constituent of fetal and neonatal sera as well as fish oils

Tarik Khair-El-Din, Stanley C. Sicher, Miguel A. Vazquez, Gary W. Chung, Kerry A. Stallworth, Kenichiro Kitamura, R. Tyler Miller, Christopher Y. Lu

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Macrophage activation is deficient in the fetus and neonate when the serum concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are 150 μM, or 10-50-fold higher than in the adult. We now show that DHA inhibits production of nitric oxide (NO) by macrophages stimulated in vitro by IFNγ plus LPS, or by IFNγ plus TNFα. The half-maximal inhibitory activity of DHA was ~25 μM. There were strict biochemical requirements of the fatty acid for inhibition. Polyenoic fatty acids with 22 carbons were more inhibitory than those with 20 carbons. Among 22-carbon fatty acids, those with a greater number of double bonds and a double bond in the n-3 position were more inhibitory, DHA was the most inhibitory of the polyenoic acids we tested. Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) is the enzyme responsible for the production of NO by macrophages. NO production is initiated after new iNOS enzyme is synthesized following transcription of the iNOS gene. In macrophages stimulated by IFNγ plus LPS, DHA inhibited accumulation of iNOS mRNA, as measured by Northern blotting, and iNOS transcription, as measured by nuclear run-on assays. We transfected RAW 264.7 macrophages with a construct containing the iNOS promoter fused to the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase gene. DHA inhibited activation of this promoter by IFN-γ plus LPS. By inhibiting iNOS transcription in the fetus and neonate, DHA may contribute to their increased susceptibility to infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1241-1246
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 1996


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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