Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid attenuates the inflammatory response by modulating microglia polarization through SIRT1-mediated deacetylation of the HMGB1/NF-κB pathway following experimental traumatic brain injury

J Neuroinflammation. 2018 Apr 20;15(1):116. doi: 10.1186/s12974-018-1151-3.


Background: Microglial polarization and the subsequent neuroinflammatory response are contributing factors for traumatic brain injury (TBI)-induced secondary injury. High mobile group box 1 (HMGB1) mediates the activation of the NF-κB pathway, and it is considered to be pivotal in the late neuroinflammatory response. Activation of the HMGB1/NF-κB pathway is closely related to HMGB1 acetylation, which is regulated by the sirtuin (SIRT) family of proteins. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-3 PUFA) are known to have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. We previously demonstrated that ω-3 PUFA inhibited TBI-induced microglial activation and the subsequent neuroinflammatory response by regulating the HMGB1/NF-κB signaling pathway. However, no studies have elucidated if ω-3 PUFA affects the HMGB1/NF-κB pathway in a HMGB1 deacetylation of dependent SIRT1 manner, thus regulating microglial polarization and the subsequent neuroinflammatory response.

Methods: The Feeney DM TBI model was adopted to induce brain injury in rats. Modified neurological severity scores, rotarod test, brain water content, and Nissl staining were employed to determine the neuroprotective effects of ω-3 PUFA supplementation. Assessment of microglia polarization and pro-inflammatory markers, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and HMGB1, were used to evaluate the neuroinflammatory responses and the anti-inflammatory effects of ω-3 PUFA supplementation. Immunofluorescent staining and western blot analysis were used to detect HMGB1 nuclear translocation, secretion, and HMGB1/NF-κB signaling pathway activation to evaluate the effects of ω-3 PUFA supplementation. The impact of SIRT1 deacetylase activity on HMGB1 acetylation and the interaction between HMGB1 and SIRT1 were assessed to evaluate anti-inflammation effects of ω-3 PUFAs, and also, whether these effects were dependent on a SIRT1-HMGB1/NF-κB axis to gain further insight into the mechanisms underlying the development of the neuroinflammatory response after TBI.

Results: The results of our study showed that ω-3 PUFA supplementation promoted a shift from the M1 microglial phenotype to the M2 microglial phenotype and inhibited microglial activation, thus reducing TBI-induced inflammatory factors. In addition, ω-3 PUFA-mediated downregulation of HMGB1 acetylation and its extracellular secretion was found to be likely due to increased SIRT1 activity. We also found that treatment with ω-3 PUFA inhibited HMGB1 acetylation and induced direct interactions between SIRT1 and HMGB1 by elevating SIRT1 activity following TBI. These events lead to inhibition of HMGB1 nucleocytoplasmic translocation/extracellular secretion and alleviated HMGB1-mediated activation of the NF-κB pathway following TBI-induced microglial activation, thus inhibiting the subsequent inflammatory response.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that ω-3 PUFA supplementation attenuates the inflammatory response by modulating microglial polarization through SIRT1-mediated deacetylation of the HMGB1/NF-κB pathway, leading to neuroprotective effects following experimental traumatic brain injury.

Keywords: HMGB1/NF-κB pathway; Microglia polarization; Neuroinflammation; Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid; Sirtuin1; Traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / complications*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / pathology
  • Capillary Permeability / drug effects
  • Cell Polarity / drug effects
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3* / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3* / therapeutic use
  • HMGB1 Protein / metabolism
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Male
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Sirtuin 1 / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • HMGB1 Protein
  • NF-kappa B
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Sirt1 protein, rat
  • Sirtuin 1