Effects of eicosapentaenoic and gamma-linolenic acid on lung permeability and alveolar macrophage eicosanoid synthesis in endotoxic rats

Crit Care Med. 1997 Mar;25(3):523-32. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199703000-00024.


Objectives: Proinflammatory eicosanoids (cyclooxgenase and lipoxygenase metabolites of arachidonic acid) released by alveolar macrophages play an important role in endotoxin-induced acute lung injury. We investigated the effect of prefeeding rats for 21 days with enteral diets that provided the anti-inflammatory fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid and gamma-linolenic acid (derived from fish oil and borage oil, respectively), as compared with an n-6 fatty acid-enriched diet (corn oil) on the following: a) lung microvascular protein permeability, arterial blood pressure, and platelet and white blood cells in a model of endotoxin-induced acute lung injury; b) alveolar macrophage prostaglandin and leukotriene synthesis; and c) liver and alveolar macrophage phospholipid fatty acid composition.

Design: Prospective, randomized, controlled, double-blind study.

Setting: Research laboratory at a university medical center.

Subjects: Male Long-Evans rats, weighing 250 g.

Interventions: Rats were randomized into four dietary treatment groups and fed nutritionally complete diets (300 kcal/kg/day), containing 55.2% of the total calories from fat with either 97% corn oil, 20% fish oil, 20% fish and 5% borage oil, or 20% fish and 20% borage oil for 21 days. On day 22, lung microvascular protein permeability, mean arterial pressure, and platelet and white blood cell counts were determined for 2 hrs after an intravenous injection of Salmonella enteritidis endotoxin (10 mg/kg). In a second group of prefed rats, the phospholipid fatty acid composition was determined in liver and alveolar macrophages. Alveolar macrophages were harvested by bronchoalveolar lavage and stimulated in vitro with a calcium ionophore (A23187), and the concentrations of leukotrienes B4 and B5, thromboxane A2, prostaglandin E2, and 6-keto-prostaglandin F1 alpha were measured in a third group of prefed rats.

Measurement and main results: Lung permeability was greatest with corn oil and was significantly attenuated with 20% fish oil and 20% fish and 5% borage oil, and this effect approached significance with 20% fish and 20% borage oil (p = .06). The early and late hypotensive effects of endotoxin were attenuated with 20% fish oil, 20% fish and 5% borage oil, and 20% fish and 20% borage oil, as compared with corn oil. Concentrations of leukotriene B4, prostaglandin E2, and thromboxane B2 released from A23187-stimulated alveolar macrophages were significantly lower with 20% fish oil and 20% fish and 20% borage oil, as compared with corn oil. The increase in lung microvascular protein permeability with 20% fish and 20% borage oil was not significantly different than the lung microvascular protein permeability that was found in animals receiving 20% fish oil (p = .20) and 20% fish and 5% borage oil (p = .31). Alveolar macrophage and liver phospholipid concentrations of arachidonic acid were lower, and the concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenic acid were higher, with 20% fish oil, and 5% borage oil, and 20% fish and 20% borage oil, as compared with corn oil. Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid, the desaturated and elongated intermediate of gamma-linolenic acid, was increased with 20% fish and 20% borage oil, as compared with 20% fish oil and 20% fish and 5% borage oil.

Conclusions: The severity of pulmonary microvascular protein permeability and the degree of hypotension were reduced with fish or fish and borage oil diets, as compared with corn oil, in endotoxic rats. The reduced synthesis of the proinflammatory arachidonic acid-derived mediators, leukotriene B4, thromboxane B2, and prostaglandin E2 from stimulated alveolar macrophages was indicative of a decrease in arachidonic acid and an increase in eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in cell membrane phospholipids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capillary Permeability / drug effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Endotoxemia / complications
  • Lung / blood supply*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / immunology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / microbiology
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid / pharmacology*


  • gamma-Linolenic Acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid