Depletion of brain docosahexaenoic acid impairs recovery from traumatic brain injury

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 27;9(1):e86472. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086472. eCollection 2014.


Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for proper development and function of the brain where docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the primary omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, is retained avidly by the neuronal membranes. We investigated the effect of DHA depletion in the brain on the outcome of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Pregnant mice were put on an omega-3 fatty acid adequate or deficient diet from gestation day 14 and the pups were raised on the respective diets. Continuation of this dietary regime for three generations resulted in approximately 70% loss of DHA in the brain. Controlled cortical impact was delivered to both groups of mice to produce severe TBI and the functional recovery was compared. Compared to the omega-3 adequate mice, the DHA depleted mice exhibited significantly slower recovery from motor deficits evaluated by the rotarod and the beam walk tests. Furthermore, the DHA deficient mice showed greater anxiety-like behavior tested in the open field test as well as cognitive deficits evaluated by the novel object recognition test. The level of alpha spectrin II breakdown products, the markers of TBI, was significantly elevated in the deficient mouse cortices, indicating that the injury is greater in the deficient brains. This observation was further supported by the reduction of NeuN positive cells around the site of injury in the deficient mice, indicating exacerbated neuronal death after injury. These results suggest an important influence of the brain DHA status on TBI outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / deficiency*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rotarod Performance Test
  • Spectrin / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • NeuN protein, mouse
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Spectrin
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids