Docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3) is the major brain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid and it is possible that docosahexaenoic acid is anti-inflammatory in the brain as it is known to be in other tissues. Using a combination of models including the fat-1 transgenic mouse, chronic dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid modulation in transgenic and wild-type mice, and acute direct brain infusion, we demonstrated that unesterified docosahexaenoic acid attenuates neuroinflammation initiated by intracerebroventricular lipopolysaccharide. Hippocampal neuroinflammation was assessed by gene expression and immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, docosahexaenoic acid protected against lipopolysaccharide-induced neuronal loss. Acute intracerebroventricular infusion of unesterified docosahexaenoic acid or its 12/15-lipoxygenase product and precursor to protectins and resolvins, 17S-hydroperoxy-docosahexaenoic acid, mimics anti-neuroinflammatory aspects of chronically increased unesterified docosahexaenoic acid. LC-MS/MS revealed that neuroprotectin D1 and several other docosahexaenoic acid-derived specialized pro-resolving mediators are present in the hippocampus. Acute intracerebroventricular infusion of 17S-hydroperoxy-docosahexaenoic acid increases hippocampal neuroprotectin D1 levels concomitant to attenuating neuroinflammation. These results show that unesterified docosahexaenoic acid is protective in a lipopolysaccharide-initiated mouse model of acute neuroinflammation, at least in part, via its conversion to specialized pro-resolving mediators; these docosahexaenoic acid stores may provide novel targets for the prevention and treatment(s) of neurological disorders with a neuroinflammatory component.
Our study shows that chronically increased brain unesterified DHA levels, but not solely phospholipid DHA levels, attenuate neuroinflammation. Similar attenuations occur with acute increases in brain unesterified DHA or 17S-HpDHA levels, highlighting the importance of an available pool of precursor unesterified DHA for the production of enzymatically derived specialized pro-resolving mediators that are critical in the regulation of neuroinflammation.