Omega-3 fatty acids suppress Th2-associated cytokine gene expressions and GATA transcription factors in mast cells

J Nutr Biochem. 2013 May;24(5):868-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2012.05.007. Epub 2012 Aug 16.


Because the interaction between omega-3 fatty acids and mast cells has remained largely unknown in allergies, we investigated whether omega-3 fatty acids affect the activation of mast cells by examining Th2-associated cytokine production and possible molecular mechanisms. Alpha-linolenic acid and its metabolites including eicosapentaenoic acid and decosahexaenoic acid induced a dramatic decrease in the production of interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5 and IL-13 in a dose-dependent manner, as well as mRNA expression of their genes, in activated MC/9 mast cells and bone marrow-derived mast cells. The effects were comparable to those of cyclosporin A (1 μM), a well-known immunosuppressive agent. Nuclear expression of GATA binding protein-1 (GATA-1) and GATA binding protein-2 (GATA-2), essential transcription factors for mast cell activation, was also greatly suppressed. However, their mRNA expressions were not affected. In P815 mast cells, which do not express GATA-1, the suppressive effects on cytokines were abolished. On the contrary, omega-3 fatty acids had less significant effects on IL-4 and IL-5 and resulted in a slight decrease in IL-13 production in EL-4 T cells. Finally, oral administration of fish oil containing high level of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced the severity of dermatitis and the thickening of epidermis/dermis in a NC/Nga murine atopic model. The number of cells expressing CD117(+) and FcεRIα(+) was greatly decreased and GATA-1 expression in the cells was also diminished. Taken together, omega-3 fatty acids might target mast cells to a greater extent than T cells to suppress Th2 cytokine expression by inhibiting GATAs for alleviation of allergic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dermatitis / drug therapy
  • Dermatitis / pathology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage
  • Flow Cytometry
  • GATA1 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • GATA1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • GATA2 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • GATA2 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Interleukin-13 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-4 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-5 / biosynthesis
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / drug effects*
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Th2 Cells / drug effects*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils
  • GATA1 Transcription Factor
  • GATA2 Transcription Factor
  • Gata1 protein, mouse
  • Gata2 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-13
  • Interleukin-5
  • Interleukin-4