Human dendritic cell activities are modulated by the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, mainly through PPAR(gamma):RXR heterodimers: comparison with other polyunsaturated fatty acids

J Leukoc Biol. 2008 Oct;84(4):1172-82. doi: 10.1189/jlb.1007688. Epub 2008 Jul 16.


There is accumulating evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may modulate immune responses. When monocytes were differentiated to dendritic cells (DCs) in the presence of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the expression of costimulatory and antigen presentation markers was altered in a concentration-dependent way, positively or negatively, depending on the markers tested and the maturation stage of the DCs. Changes induced by eicosapentaenoic acid and linoleic acid were similar but less intense than those of DHA, whereas oleic acid had almost no effect. DHA-treated, mature DCs showed inhibition of IL-6 expression and IL-10 and IL-12 secretion, and their lymphoproliferative stimulation capacity was impaired. The phenotypic alterations of DCs induced by DHA were similar to those already reported for Rosiglitazone (Rosi), a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR gamma) activator, and the retinoid 9-cis-retinoic acid (9cRA), a retinoid X receptor (RXR) activator. Moreover, DHA induced the expression of PPAR gamma target genes pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase-4 and aP-2 in immature DCs. The combination of DHA with Rosi or 9cRA produced additive effects. Furthermore, when DCs were cultured in the presence of a specific PPAR gamma inhibitor, all of the changes induced by DHA were blocked. Together, these results strongly suggest that the PPAR gamma:RXR heterodimer is the pathway component activated by DHA to induce its immunomodulatory effect on DCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / physiology*
  • Dimerization
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Endocytosis / drug effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Leukocytes / physiology
  • Monocytes / cytology
  • PPAR gamma / pharmacology*
  • Retinoid X Receptors / pharmacology*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • PPAR gamma
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids