Huang, Y.S. and Horrobin, D.F.
Sex differences in n-3 and n-6 fatty acid metabolism in EFA-depleted rats
Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1987; 185(3): 291-296.


We studied the effect of sex on the distribution of long-chain n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in essential fatty acid-deficient rats fed gamma- linolenate (GLA) concentrate and/or eicosapentaenoate and docosahexaenoate-rich fish oil (FO). Male and female weanling rats were rendered essential fatty acid deficient by maintaining them on a fat-free semisynthetic diet for 8 weeks. Thereafter, animals of each sex were separated into three groups (n = 6) and given, for 2 consecutive days by gastric intubation, 4 g/kg body wt per day of GLA concentrate (containing 84% 18:2n-6), n-3 fatty acid-rich FO (containing 18% 20:5n-3 and 52% 22:6n-3), or an equal mixture of the two oil preparations (GLA + FO). The fatty acid distributions in plasma and liver lipids were then examined. GLA treatment increased the levels of C-20 and C-22 n-6 fatty acids in all lipid fractions indicating that GLA was rapidly metabolized. However, the increases in 20:3n-6 were less in females than those in males, while those in 20:4n-6 were greater, suggesting that the conversion of 20:3n-6 to 20:4n-6 was more active in female than in male rats. FO treatment increased the levels of 20:5n-3 and 22:6n-3 and reduced those of 20:4n-6. The increase in n-3 fatty acids was greater in females than that in males and the reduction in 20:4n-6 was smaller. Consequently, the sum of total long-chain EFAs incorporated was greater in females than that in males. The administration of n-3 fatty acids also reduced the ratio of 20:4n-6 to 20:3n-6 in GLA + FO-treated rats indicating that n-3 fatty acids inhibited the activity of delta-5-desaturase. However, this effect was not affected by the sex difference.

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