Whole-body synthesis-secretion rates of long-chain n-3 PUFAs from circulating unesterified alpha-linolenic acid in unanesthetized rats.J Lipid Res. 2009 Apr; 50(4):749-58.JL
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), long-chain n-3 PUFAs important for brain and heart function, can be obtained from dietary fish products or by liver synthesis from alpha-linolenic acid (alpha-LNA). Their daily human dietary requirements are not clear, and their liver synthesis rates in humans and nonhumans are unknown. We estimated whole-body (presumably liver) synthesis rates in unanesthetized rats by infusing [U-(13)C]alpha-LNA intravenously for 2 h and measuring labeled and unlabeled n-3 PUFA in arterial plasma using negative chemical ionization GC-MS. Newly synthesized esterified [(13)C]DHA, [(13)C]EPA, and [(13)C]docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) appeared in arterial plasma after 60 min of infusion, then their concentrations rose in an S-shaped manner. Esterified concentration x plasma volume data were fit with a sigmoidal equation, whose peak first derivatives provided synthesis rates of unlabeled EPA, DPA, and DHA equal to 8.40, 6.27, and 9.84 mumol/day, respectively. The DHA synthesis rate exceeded the published daily rat brain DHA consumption rate by 30-fold, suggesting that liver synthesis from alpha-LNA could maintain brain DHA homeostasis were DHA absent from the diet. This stable isotope infusion method could be used to quantify whole-body DHA synthesis rates in human subjects.