Docosahexaenoic Acid Is a Major n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid in Bovine Retinal Microvessels


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. M. Lecomte at LIPHA-INSERM U352, INSA-Lyon, Building 406, 20 Ave A. Einstein, F-69621 Villeurbanne Cedex, France.


Abstract: The aim of this study was to purify microvessels from bovine retina and also to cultivate bovine retinal endothelial cells (BRECs) or intramural pericytes, to determine their fatty acid composition. Microvessels were obtained after Dounce homogenization of the retina followed by centrifugation on albumin cushion and finally microvessels in the pellet were trapped on a 100-µm nylon filter. Contamination of microvessel preparations by neuronal tissue, assessed after both microscopic examination and western blotting with a monoclonal antibody raised against rhodopsin, was minor. In the entire bovine retina, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) represented 23.3% of the total fatty acids and there was about three times less arachidonic acid (AA) (8.2%) than DHA. In contrast, DHA and AA levels were almost equivalent in the retinal microvessels with ∼10% of total fatty acids. When compared with intact microvessels, the DHA proportion of confluent monolayers of both BRECs or pericytes in primary cultures dropped to ∼2% of the total fatty acids, whereas AA was unchanged. Culture medium supplementation with unesterified DHA (10 µM) restored the DHA proportion of BRECs close to the microvascular value at the expense of linoleic acid without affecting AA very much. In contrast, DHA supplementation in pericytes increased the DHA proportion of these cells at the expense of AA. In conclusion, DHA of intact microvessels represented 10% of the total fatty acids, which was close to the AA proportion. Mild DHA supplementation of BRECs or pericytes in primary cultures restored their DHA proportion to the original microvessel value. This high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids in retinal microvessels should allow us to test the hypothesis that oxidation products derived from these fatty acids may be involved in the pathogenic process leading to diabetic retinopathy.