Modulation of eicosanoid production and cell-mediated cytotoxicity by dietary alpha-linolenic acid in BALB/c mice

Lipids. 1989 Apr;24(4):305-11. doi: 10.1007/BF02535168.


The effects of dietary alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) on fatty acid composition, eicosanoid production, and cell-mediated cytotoxic activity of immune cells before and after challenge with virus or poly I-C from BALB/c mice were studied. Weanling BALB/c mice were fed purified diets containing either 10%-by-weight corn oil or linseed oil providing a ratio of 18:3n-3 to 18:2n-6 of 1/32 or 2/1, respectively, for 6-10 weeks. Fatty acid analysis of splenocyte phospholipids showed an appreciable increase in the percentage of n-3, and a decrease in n-6, fatty acids in splenocytes from mice fed the linseed oil diet. Splenocyte prostaglandin E and peritoneal exudate cell leukotriene C production was significantly lower in the linseed oil-fed mice. In general, cell-mediated cytotoxic activity was similar for immune cells from linseed oil and corn oil-fed mice. However, 6 days after the viral challenge, splenocyte cell-mediated cytotoxic activity was significantly higher in linseed oil mice. This higher activity was associated with nonspecific cytotoxicity rather than that of viral-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes. Cell yields from the spleen and peritoneum were frequently significantly higher in linseed oil mice. Interactions between dietary 18:3n-3, eicosanoid production, and immune cell proliferation and/or migration are discussed. In summary, feeding mice a diet rich in 18:3n-3 elevates immune cell n-3 fatty acid content, reduces eicosanoid synthesis and, to a limited extent, enhances the cell-mediated cytotoxic response to a viral challenge.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / pharmacology*
  • Leukotrienes / biosynthesis*
  • Linolenic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Linolenic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Prostaglandins / biosynthesis*
  • Spleen / analysis
  • Spleen / anatomy & histology
  • Spleen / cytology
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Leukotrienes
  • Linolenic Acids
  • Prostaglandins
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid