Dietary n-3 PUFAs augment caspase 8 activation in Staphylococcal aureus enterotoxin B stimulated T-cells

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Epidemiological studies have linked consumption of n-3 PUFAs with a variety of beneficial health benefits, particularly with respect to putative anti-inflammatory effects. Unfortunately, many of these results remain somewhat controversial because in most instances there has not been a linkage to specific molecular mechanisms. For instance, dietary exposure to low levels of mercury has been shown to be damaging to neural development, but concomitant ingestion of n-3 PUFAs as occurs during consumption of fish, has been shown to counteract the detrimental effects. As the mechanisms mediating the neurotoxicity of environmental mercury are not fully delineated, it is difficult to conceptualize a testable molecular mechanism explaining how n-3 PUFAs negate its neurotoxic effects. However, environmental exposure to mercury also has been linked to increased autoimmunity. By way of a molecular understanding of this immuno-toxic association, disruption of CD95 signaling is well established as a triggering factor for autoimmunity, and we have previously shown that environmentally relevant in vitro and dietary exposures to mercury interfere with CD95 signaling. In particular we have shown that activation of caspase 8, as well as downstream activation of caspase 3, in response to CD95 agonist stimulation is depressed by mercury. More recently we have shown in vitro that the n-3 PUFA docosahexaenoic acid counteracts the negative effect of mercury on CD95 signaling by restoring caspase activity. We hypothesized that concomitant ingestion of n-3 PUFAs with mercury might be protective from the immuno-toxic effects of mercury, as it is with mercury's neuro-toxic effects, and in the case of immuno-toxicity this would be related to restoration of CD95 signal strength. We now show that dietary ingestion of n-3 PUFAs generally promotes CD95 signaling by upregulating caspase 8 activation. Apart from accounting for the ability of n-3 PUFAs to specifically counteract autoimmune sequelae of mercury exposure, this novel finding for the first time suggests a testable molecular mechanism explaining the overall anti-inflammatory properties of n-3 PUFAs.

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