Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) have long been associated with decreased inflammation and are also implicated in the prevention of tumorigenesis. Conventional thinking attributed this mainly to a suppressive effect of these fatty acids on the formation of arachidonic acid-derived prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Recent years have seen the discovery of a new class of inflammation-dampening and resolution-promoting n-3 PUFA-derived lipid mediators called resolvins and protectins. Chemically, these compounds are hydroxylated derivatives of the parent n-3 PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for the E-resolvins, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for the D-resolvins and protectin D1. While a relatively large number of these compounds have been identified and characterized until now, with differences in the positions of the hydroxyl-groups as well as in the chirality at the different carbon atoms, all compounds share common precursor metabolites, 17-hydroperoxydocosahexaenoic acid (17-H(p)DHA) for the DHA-derived compounds and 18-hydroperoxyeicosapentaenoic acid (18-H(p)EPE) for the EPA-derived compounds. In this review we summarize the current knowledge about EPA- and DHA-derived resolvins and protectins and explore the potential use of the pro-resolvins 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid (17-HDHA) and 18-hydroxyeicosapentaenoic acid (18-HEPE) as indicators of anti-inflammatory n-3 PUFA mediator formation.
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