Alteration of n-3 fatty acid composition in lung tissue after short-term infusion of fish oil emulsion attenuates inflammatory vascular reaction

Crit Care Med. 1996 Nov;24(11):1893-902. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199611000-00021.


Objectives: To investigate whether modulation of the fatty acid profile can be achieved by the short-term infusion of a fish oil emulsion which may attenuate the pulmonary response to inflammatory stimulation. Changes of fatty acid pattern in-lung tissue and perfusate were analyzed and correlated with physiologic data after a 3-hr infusion of fish oil in comparison with a soybean oil preparation.

Design: Prospective, randomized, controlled trial.

Setting: Experimental laboratory in a university teaching hospital.

Subjects: Forty standard breed rabbits of either gender.

Interventions: Isolated lungs from anesthetized rabbits were ventilated and recirculation-perfused (200 mL/min) with 200 mL of cell-free buffer solution to which either 2 mL of saline (control, n = 6), 2 mL of a 10% soybean oil preparation (n = 6), or 2 mL of a 10% fish oil emulsion (n = 6) were added. Samples of perfusate and lung tissue were collected for analysis of fatty acid composition. Tissue and perfusate fatty acid composition were analyzed by capillary gas chromatography. To study metabolic alterations in states of inflammatory stimulation, lungs of each group were stimulated with small doses of the calcium ionophore, A23187 (10(-8) M), during the 180-min lipid perfusion period and again after washing out the lipids by exchanging the perfusion fluid. Pulmonary arterial pressure and lung weight gain were monitored, and eicosanoids were analyzed in the perfusate.

Measurements and main results: Free eicosapentaenoic acids increased several-fold in lung tissue and perfusate during a 3-hr infusion with fish oil. The intravenously administered n-3 fatty acids were rapidly hydrolyzed, as indicated by the appearance of substantial quantities of eicosapentaenoic acid in the perfusate free fatty acid fraction. This increase of perfusion levels of eicosapentaenoic acid was paralleled by an attenuated pressure increase and edema formation due to calcium ionophore challenge and an altered eicosanoid spectrum determined in the perfusate compared with soybean oil-treated lungs.

Conclusion: Short-term n-3 lipid application (fish oil emulsion) exerts anti-inflammatory effects on lung vasculature, which may be due to the metabolism of eicosapentaenoic acid resulting in the generation of less potent inflammatory eicosanoids.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcimycin / pharmacology
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / biosynthesis
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Ionophores / pharmacology
  • Leukotriene C4 / biosynthesis
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rabbits
  • SRS-A / analogs & derivatives
  • SRS-A / biosynthesis


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils
  • Ionophores
  • SRS-A
  • Leukotriene C4
  • Calcimycin
  • leukotriene C-5
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid