Protective activities of distinct omega-3 enriched oils are linked to their ability to upregulate specialized pro-resolving mediators

PLoS One. 2020 Dec 16;15(12):e0242543. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242543. eCollection 2020.


Clinical studies using a range of omega-3 supplements have yielded conflicting results on their efficacy to control inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are substrate for the formation of potent immune-protective mediators, termed as specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPM). Herein, we investigated whether observed differences in the potencies of distinct omega-3 supplements were linked with their ability to upregulate SPM formation. Using lipid mediator profiling we found that four commercially available supplements conferred a unique SPM signature profile to human macrophages, with the overall increases in SPM concentrations being different between the four supplements. These increases in SPM concentrations were linked with an upregulation of macrophage phagocytosis and a decreased uptake of oxidized low-density lipoproteins. Pharmacological inhibition of two key SPM biosynthetic enzymes 5-Lipoxygenase or 15-Lipoxygenase reversed the macrophage-directed actions of each of the omega-3 supplements. Furthermore, administration of the two supplements that most potently upregulated macrophage SPM formation and reprogrammed their responses in vitro, to APOE-/- mice fed a western diet, increased plasma SPM concentrations and reduced vascular inflammation. Together these findings support the utility of SPM as potential prognostic markers in determining the utility of a given supplement to regulate macrophage responses and inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / deficiency
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Apolipoproteins E / immunology
  • Arachidonate 15-Lipoxygenase / genetics
  • Arachidonate 15-Lipoxygenase / immunology
  • Arachidonate 5-Lipoxygenase / genetics
  • Arachidonate 5-Lipoxygenase / immunology
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology
  • Atherosclerosis / immunology
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Diet, Western / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Leukotrienes / biosynthesis*
  • Leukotrienes / immunology
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / pharmacology
  • Lipoxins / biosynthesis*
  • Lipoxins / immunology
  • Lipoxygenase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout, ApoE
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Prostaglandins / biosynthesis*
  • Prostaglandins / immunology


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Leukotrienes
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Lipoxins
  • Lipoxygenase Inhibitors
  • Prostaglandins
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • Arachidonate 15-Lipoxygenase
  • Arachidonate 5-Lipoxygenase