Advances in Our Understanding of Oxylipins Derived from Dietary PUFAs

Adv Nutr. 2015 Sep 15;6(5):513-40. doi: 10.3945/an.114.007732. Print 2015 Sep.


Oxylipins formed from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are the main mediators of PUFA effects in the body. They are formed via cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase, and cytochrome P450 pathways, resulting in the formation of prostaglandins, thromboxanes, mono-, di-, and tri-hydroxy fatty acids (FAs), epoxy FAs, lipoxins, eoxins, hepoxilins, resolvins, protectins (also called neuroprotectins in the brain), and maresins. In addition to the well-known eicosanoids derived from arachidonic acid, recent developments in lipidomic methodologies have raised awareness of and interest in the large number of oxylipins formed from other PUFAs, including those from the essential FAs and the longer-chain n-3 (ω-3) PUFAs. Oxylipins have essential roles in normal physiology and function, but can also have detrimental effects. Compared with the oxylipins derived from n-3 PUFAs, oxylipins from n-6 PUFAs generally have greater activity and more inflammatory, vasoconstrictory, and proliferative effects, although there are notable exceptions. Because PUFA composition does not necessarily reflect oxylipin composition, comprehensive analysis of the oxylipin profile is necessary to understand the overall physiologic effects of PUFAs mediated through their oxylipins. These analyses should include oxylipins derived from linoleic and α-linolenic acids, because these largely unexplored bioactive oxylipins constitute more than one-half of oxylipins present in tissues. Because collated information on oxylipins formed from different PUFAs is currently unavailable, this review provides a detailed compilation of the main oxylipins formed from PUFAs and describes their functions. Much remains to be elucidated in this emerging field, including the discovery of more oxylipins, and the understanding of the differing biological potencies, kinetics, and isomer-specific activities of these novel PUFA metabolites.

Keywords: cyclooxygenase; cytochrome P450; eicosanoid; lipid mediators; lipidomics; lipooxygenase; omega-3; omega-6; oxylipin; polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lipoxygenase / metabolism
  • Oxylipins / chemistry*
  • Oxylipins / pharmacology
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Oxylipins
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Lipoxygenase
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases