Modulation of inflammation in brain: a matter of fat

J Neurochem. 2007 May;101(3):577-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2006.04371.x. Epub 2007 Jan 25.


Neuroinflammation is a host defense mechanism associated with neutralization of an insult and restoration of normal structure and function of brain. Neuroinflammation is a hallmark of all major CNS diseases. The main mediators of neuroinflammation are microglial cells. These cells are activated during a CNS injury. Microglial cells initiate a rapid response that involves cell migration, proliferation, release of cytokines/chemokines and trophic and/or toxic effects. Cytokines/chemokines stimulate phospholipases A2 and cyclooxygenases. This results in breakdown of membrane glycerophospholipids with the release of arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Oxidation of AA produces pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes. One of the lyso-glycerophospholipids, the other products of reactions catalyzed by phospholipase A2, is used for the synthesis of pro-inflammatory platelet-activating factor. These pro-inflammatory mediators intensify neuroinflammation. Lipoxin, an oxidized product of AA through 5-lipoxygenase, is involved in the resolution of inflammation and is anti-inflammatory. Docosahexaenoic acid is metabolized to resolvins and neuroprotectins. These lipid mediators inhibit the generation of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes. Levels of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes are markedly increased in acute neural trauma and neurodegenerative diseases. Docosahexaenoic acid and its lipid mediators prevent neuroinflammation by inhibiting transcription factor NFkappaB, preventing cytokine secretion, blocking the synthesis of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes, and modulating leukocyte trafficking. Depending on its timing and magnitude in brain tissue, inflammation serves multiple purposes. It is involved in the protection of uninjured neurons and removal of degenerating neuronal debris and also in assisting repair and recovery processes. The dietary ratio of AA to DHA may affect neurodegeneration associated with acute neural trauma and neurodegenerative diseases. The dietary intake of docosahexaenoic acid offers the possibility of counter-balancing the harmful effects of high levels of AA-derived pro-inflammatory lipid mediators.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuroglia / physiology


  • Lipids