Maternal n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid dietary supply modulates microglia lipid content in the offspring

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018 Jun;133:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2018.04.003. Epub 2018 Apr 25.


The brain is highly enriched in long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) that are esterified into phospholipids, the major components of cell membranes. They accumulate during the perinatal period when the brain is rapidly developing. Hence, the levels of LC-PUFAs in the brains of the offspring greatly depend on maternal dietary intake. Perinatal n-3 PUFA consumption has been suggested to modulate the activity of microglial cells, the brain's innate immune cells which contribute to the shaping of neuronal network during development. However, the impact of maternal n-3 PUFA intake on microglial lipid composition in the offspring has never been studied. To investigate the impact of maternal dietary n-3 PUFA supply on microglia lipid composition, pregnant mice were fed with n-3 PUFA deficient, n-3 PUFA balanced or n-3 PUFA supplemented diets during gestation and lactation. At weaning, microglia were isolated from the pup's brains to analyze their fatty acid composition and phospholipid class levels. We here report that post-natal microglial cells displayed a distinctive lipid profile as they contained high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), more EPA than docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and large amount of phosphatidylinositol (PI) / phosphatidylserine (PS). Maternal n-3 PUFA supply increased DHA levels and decreased n-6 docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) levels whereas the PI/PS membrane content was inversely correlated to the quantity of PUFAs in the diet. These results raise the possibility of modulating microglial lipid profile and their subsequent activity in the developing brain.

Keywords: DHA; Development; EPA; Microglia; Nutrition; Phospholipids; Polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Lactation
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Lipids / analysis*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Mice
  • Microglia / cytology
  • Microglia / drug effects*
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Weaning


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Lipids
  • Phospholipids
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids