Mechanisms regulating brain docosahexaenoic acid uptake: what is the recent evidence?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To summarize recent advances pertaining to the mechanisms regulating brain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) uptake. DHA is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid highly enriched in neuronal membranes and it is implicated in several important neurological processes. However, DHA synthesis is extremely limited within the brain.

Recent findings

There are two main plasma pools that supply the brain with DHA: the nonesterified pool and the lysophosphatidylcholine (lysoPtdCho) pool. Quantitatively, plasma nonesterified-DHA (NE-DHA) is the main contributor to brain DHA. Fatty acid transport protein 1 (FATP1) in addition to fatty acid-binding protein 5 (FABP5) are key players that regulate brain uptake of NE-DHA. However, the plasma half-life of lysoPtdCho-DHA and its brain partition coefficient are higher than those of NE-DHA after intravenous administration.

Summary

The mechanisms regulating brain DHA uptake are more complicated than once believed, but recent advances provide some clarity notably by suggesting that FATP1 and FABP5 are key contributors to cellular uptake of DHA at the blood–brain barrier. Elucidating how DHA enters the brain is important as we might be able to identify methods to better deliver DHA to the brain as a potential therapeutic.

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