trans-Fatty Acids as an Enhancer of Inflammation and Cell Death: Molecular Basis for Their Pathological Actions

Biol Pharm Bull. 2021;44(10):1349-1356. doi: 10.1248/bpb.b21-00449.


trans-Fatty acids (TFAs) are food-derived fatty acids that possess one or more trans double bonds between carbon atoms. Compelling epidemiological and clinical evidence has demonstrated the association of TFA consumption with various diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. However, the underlying etiology is poorly understood since the mechanisms of action of TFAs remain to be clarified. Previous studies have shown that single treatment with TFAs induce inflammation and cell death, but to a much lesser extent than saturated fatty acids (SFAs) that are well established as a risk factor for diseases linked with inflammation and cell death, which cannot explain the particularly higher association of TFAs with atherosclerosis than SFAs. In our series of studies, we have established the role of TFAs as an enhancer of inflammation and cell death. We found that pretreatment with TFAs strongly promoted apoptosis induced by either extracellular ATP, one of the damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) leaked from damaged cells, or DNA damaging-agents, including doxorubicin and cisplatin, thorough enhancing activation of the stress-responsive mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase p38/c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathways; pretreatment with SFAs or cis isomers of TFAs had only minor or no effect, suggesting the uniqueness of the pro-apoptotic role of TFAs among fatty acids. Our findings will provide an insight into understanding of the pathogenesis mechanisms, and open up a new avenue for developing prevention strategies and therapies for TFA-related diseases.

Keywords: DNA damage; apoptosis; extracellular ATP; inflammation; mitogen-activated kinase; trans-fatty acid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alarmins / metabolism
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Trans Fatty Acids / adverse effects*


  • Alarmins
  • Dietary Fats
  • Trans Fatty Acids