TitleDietary polyunsaturated fatty acid regulation of gene transcription.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsClarke, SD, Jump, DB
JournalAnnu Rev Nutr
Date Published1994
KeywordsAnimals, Base Sequence, Dietary Fats, Unsaturated, Fatty Acids, Unsaturated, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Liver, Molecular Sequence Data, Transcription, Genetic


We have known for nearly 30 years that dietary polyenoic (n-6) and (n-3) fatty acids potentially inhibit hepatic fatty acid biosynthesis. The teleological explanation for this unique action of PUFAs resides in their ability to suppress the synthesis of (n-9) fatty acids. By inhibiting fatty acid biosynthesis, dietary PUFAs reduce the availability of substrate for delta 9 desaturase (7, 22, 34, 36) and in turn reduce the availability of (n-9) fatty acids for incorporation into plasma membranes. In this way, essential biological processes dependent on essential fatty acids (e.g. reproduction and trans-dermal water loss) continue to operate normally. Therefore, if essential fatty acid intake did not regulate (n-9) fatty acid synthesis, the survival of the organism would be threatened. During the past 20 years, we have gradually elucidated the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which dietary PUFAs modulate fatty acid biosynthesis and (n-9) fatty acid availability. Central to this mechanism has been our ability to determine that dietary PUFAs regulate the transcription of genes coding for lipogenic enzymes (12, 40). The potential mechanisms by which PUFAs govern gene transcription are numerous, and it is unlikely that any one mechanism can fully elucidate the nuclear actions of PUFA. The difficulty in providing a unifying hypothesis at this time stems from: (a) the many metabolic routes taken by PUFAs upon entering the hepatocyte (Figure 1); and (b) the lack of identity of a specific PUFA-regulated trans-acting factor. However, the studies described above indicate that macronutrients, like PUFA, are not only utilized as fuel and structural components of cells, but also serve as important mediators of gene expression (12, 14, 40). As regulators of gene expression, PUFAs (or metabolites) are thought to affect the activity of transcription factors, which in turn target key cis-linked elements associated with specific genes. Whether this targeting involves DNA-protein interaction or the interaction of PUFA-regulated factors is unclear. A better understanding of the nuclear actions of PUFA will clarify the role of these compounds in lipid metabolism and lead to a better understanding of the role of PUFAs in disease processes such as insulin-resistant diabetes and certain forms of cancer.

Alternate JournalAnnu. Rev. Nutr.
PubMed ID7946534
Grant ListR01 DK043220 / DK / NIDDK NIH HHS / United States
DK43220 / DK / NIDDK NIH HHS / United States