Potential role of hepatic lipase in the accretion of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) by the brain

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2021 Oct;1866(10):159002. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2021.159002. Epub 2021 Jun 29.


DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an essential fatty acid that is required for the normal development and function of the brain. Because of its inability to synthesize adequate amounts of DHA from the precursors, the brain has to acquire DHA from plasma through the blood brain barrier (BBB). Recent studies demonstrated the presence of a transporter at the BBB that specifically transports DHA into the brain in the form of lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC-DHA). However, the mechanism by which LPC-DHA is generated in the plasma is not known. Our previous studies showed that there are at least three different enzymes - lecithin cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT), endothelial lipase (EL), and hepatic lipase (HL), which can generate LPC-DHA from sn-2 DHA phosphatidylcholine. Here we determined the relative contributions of these enzymes in the delivery of DHA to the brain by measuring the brain DHA levels in the mice deficient in each of these enzymes. The results show that the brain DHA levels of LCAT-deficient mice or EL-deficient mice were not significantly lower than those of their littermates. However, brain DHA was significantly decreased in HL deficient mice (13.5% of total fatty acids) compared to their littermates (17.1%) (p < 0.002), and further decreased to 8.3% of total fatty acids in mice deficient in both HL and EL. These results suggest that HL activity may be the major source for the generation of LPC-DHA in the plasma necessary for transport into the brain, and EL might contribute to this process in the absence of HL.

Keywords: Brain; DHA; Endothelial lipase; Hepatic lipase; LCAT; LPC-DHA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / enzymology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / analysis
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipase / deficiency*
  • Lipase / genetics
  • Lipase / metabolism*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines / analysis
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Phosphatidylcholine-Sterol O-Acyltransferase / genetics
  • Phosphatidylcholine-Sterol O-Acyltransferase / metabolism


  • Lysophosphatidylcholines
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Phosphatidylcholine-Sterol O-Acyltransferase
  • Lipase
  • Lipc protein, mouse
  • Lipg protein, mouse