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Keywords:

  • EPA;
  • Fish oil;
  • Lactobacilli;
  • TGF-β

Commensal bacteria and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have both been shown independently to modulate immune responses. This study tested the hypothesis that the different colonic immunomodulatory responses to commensal (Lactobacillus gasseri) and pathogenic bacteria (Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus) may be modified by PUFAs. Experiments used a Transwell system combining the colorectal cell line HT29, or its mucous secreting sub-clone HT29-MTX, with peripheral blood mononuclear cells to analyse immunomodulatory signalling in response to bacteria, with and without prior treatment with arachidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid or docosahexaenoic acid. L. gasseri increased transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) mRNA and protein secretion in colonic cell lines when compared with controls, an effect that was enhanced by pre-treatment with eicosapentaenoic acid. In contrast, the Gram-negative pathogen E. coli LF82 had no significant effect on TGF-β1 protein. L. gasseri also increased IL-8 mRNA but not protein while E. coli increased both; although differences between PUFA treatments were detected, none were significantly different to controls. Colonic epithelial cells show different immunomodulatory signalling patterns in response to the commensal L. gasseri compared to E. coli and S. aureus and pre-treatment of these cells with PUFAs can modify responses.

Practical applications: We have demonstrated an interaction between dietary PUFAs and epithelial cell response to both commensal and pathogenic bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract by utilising in vitro co-culture models. The data suggest that n-3 PUFAs may provide some protection against the potentially damaging effects of pathogens. Furthermore, the beneficial effects of combining n-3 PUFAs and the commensal bacteria, and potential probiotic, L. gasseri are illustrated by the increased expression of immunoregulatory TGF-β1.