Differential modulation of Toll-like receptors by fatty acids: preferential inhibition by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

J Lipid Res. 2003 Mar;44(3):479-86. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M200361-JLR200. Epub 2002 Dec 1.


Human subjects consuming fish oil showed a significant suppression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression in blood monocytes when stimulated in vitro with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an agonist for Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). Results with a murine monocytic cell line (RAW 264.7) stably transfected with COX-2 promoter reporter gene also demonstrated that LPS-induced COX-2 expression was preferentially inhibited by docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6n-3) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5n-3), the major n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) present in fish oil. Additionally, DHA and EPA significantly suppressed COX-2 expression induced by a synthetic lipopeptide, a TLR2 agonist. These results correlated with the preferential suppression of LPS- or lipopeptide-induced NF kappa B activation by DHA and EPA. The target of inhibition by DHA is TLR itself or its associated molecules, but not downstream signaling components. In contrast, COX-2 expression by TLR2 or TRL4 agonist was potentiated by lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid. These results demonstrate that inhibition of COX-2 expression by n-3 PUFAs is mediated through the modulation of TLR-mediated signaling pathways. Thus, the beneficial or detrimental effects of different types of dietary fatty acids on the risk of the development of many chronic inflammatory diseases may be in part mediated through the modulation of TLRs.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacology*
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics*
  • Linoleic Acid
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / agonists
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mice
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / genetics*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / agonists
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Triglycerides / pharmacology*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Fish Oils
  • Isoenzymes
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • TLR2 protein, human
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Triglycerides
  • Pikasol
  • Linoleic Acid
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases