Revealing how omega-3 fatty acids are transported into the brain
Background: Brain cells are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is essential for normal brain growth and function. DHA in the brain comes entirely from the blood. It was not known how DHA crosses the protective blood brain barrier (BBB) to enter the brain.
Aim: The aim of these experiments was to show how DHA crosses the BBB.
Methods: The authors developed a unique mouse model with a brain that is DHA deficient, and used this to undertake a range of experiments.
Results: The authors have shown that:
- a member of the major facilitator superfamily (Mfsd2a) is the major transporter for DHA into brain.
- Mfsd2a is located in the blood-brain barrier.
- Mice that don’t have the Mfsd2a have very low levels of DHA in brain. These mice also have fewer brain cells in regions linked to short and long term memory, motor function, and cognitive functions such as attention and language.
- Msfd2a has an essential role in maintaining brain DHA during the growth of an embryo.
Conclusion: Mfsd2a is the major transporter of DHA into the brain. Based on the significance of their results, they renamed this molecule the sodium-dependent LPC sympoter1 (NLS1).
Reference: Nguyen LN, Ma D, Shui G, Wong P, Cazenave-Gassiot A, Zhang X, Wenk MR, Goh EL, Silver DL.Mfsd2a is a transporter for the essential omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid. Nature. 2014 May 22; 509 (7501):503-6.