Membrane modulatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids: Analysis of molecular level interactions

Curr Top Membr. 2020:86:57-81. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctm.2020.08.001. Epub 2020 Sep 14.


Bioactive omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of death in patients with cardiovascular disease and alleviate the symptoms of other inflammatory diseases. However, the mechanisms of action of these effects remain unclear. It has been postulated that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids modify cell membranes by incorporation into the membrane and altering the signaling properties of cellular receptors. In this chapter, we explore the effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cell membrane structure and function. We present a review of the current evidence for the health benefits of these compounds and explore the molecular mechanisms through which omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids interact with membrane lipids and modulate bilayer structure. Using computational models of multicomponent phospholipid bilayers, we assess the consequences of incorporation of these fatty acids on membrane lipid packing, water permeation, and membrane structure.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Docosahexaenoic acid; Eicosapentaenoic acid; Lipid packing; Membrane bilayer; Membrane fluidity; Molecular dynamics simulations; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Omega-3 fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membranes
  • Phospholipids


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