Omega 3-DHA and Delta-Tocotrienol Modulate Lipid Droplet Biogenesis and Lipophagy in Breast Cancer Cells: the Impact in Cancer Aggressiveness

Nutrients. 2019 May 28;11(6):1199. doi: 10.3390/nu11061199.


Omega 3-docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and vitamin E Delta-tocotrienol (Delta-T3) are extensively studied as protective nutrients against cancer development. Little is known about the biological mechanisms targeted by these bioactive molecules on lipid droplet (LD) biogenesis, an important breast cancer aggressiveness marker, and the occurrence of lipophagy in breast cancer cells. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of DHA, Delta-T3 and DHA plus Delta-T3 co-treatment in LD biogenesis and lipophagy process in triple negative breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231. Cells were treated with 50 μM DHA and/or 5 μM Delta-T3. Our results demonstrated that DHA can trigger an increase in LD biogenesis and co-treatment with Delta-T3 was able to reduce this LD biogenesis. In addition, we showed that a higher cytoplasmic LD content is associated with a higher breast cancer cells malignance and proliferation. Reduction of cytoplasmic LD content by silencing ADRP (adipose differentiation-related protein), a structural LD protein, also decreased cell proliferation in MDA-MB-231 cells. Treatment with DHA and Delta-T3 alone or co-treatment did not reduce cell viability. Moreover, we showed here that DHA can trigger lipophagy in MDA-MB-231 cells and DHA plus Delta-T3 co-treatment was able to enhance this lipophagy process. Our findings demonstrated that co-treatment with DHA plus Delta-T3 in MDA-MB-231 cells could reduce LD biogenesis and potentiate lipophagy in these cells, possibly having a positive impact to inhibit breast cancer malignancy. Therefore, suitable doses of DHA and Delta-T3 vitamin E isoform supplementation can be a prominent tool in therapeutic treatments against breast cancer.

Keywords: breast cancer; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), delta-tocotrienol (Delta-T3), lipid droplets; lipophagy.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology*
  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Droplets / drug effects*
  • Lipid Droplets / metabolism
  • Perilipin-2 / genetics
  • Perilipin-2 / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vitamin E / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology


  • PLIN2 protein, human
  • Perilipin-2
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Vitamin E
  • tocotrienol, delta
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids