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The influence of EPA and DHA on markers of inflammation in 3T3-L1 cells at different stages of cellular maturation

Adam Prostek*, Małgorzata Gajewska, Dariusz Kamola and Bożena Bałasińska

Author Affiliations

Department of Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Warsaw University of Life Sciences (WULS-SGGW), Warsaw, Poland

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2014, 13:3  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-3

Published: 3 January 2014



EPA and DHA have been reported to have anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent studies revealed that these positive actions of n-3 PUFA at least partially are connected with their influence on metabolism and secretory functions of the adipose tissue. However, their impact on old adipocytes is still poorly understood. Therefore the aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of EPA and DHA on markers of inflammation in 3T3-L1 cells at different stages of cellular maturation.


Young, mature and old differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes were cultured for 48 h in the presence of 100 μM EPA, or 50 μM DHA complexed to albumin, whereas in control conditions only albumin was added to the medium. The Oil Red O staining was used to confirm adipocytes differentiation, and measure triglycerides content in cells. The concentration of adipokines (interleukin 6, adiponectin and leptin) in conditioned media was measured using mouse-specific ELISA kits.


The fat accumulation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes was positively correlated with their age; however, EPA and DHA did not affect lipid accumulation on any stage of maturation. EPA and DHA increased the concentration of secreted adiponectin when compared with control, but only in the case of young adipocytes (58% and 35%, respectively). Moreover, EPA supplementation increased interleukin 6 concentration in conditioned medium, while DHA exerted an opposite effect on all stages of cellular maturation. Furthermore, EPA treatment increased leptin release from young cells, while DHA did not affect the secretion of this adipokine. In mature 3T3-L1 adipocytes both experimental factors decreased synthesis of leptin; however, in old cells no impact of these PUFA was noted.


In summary, age is an important determinant of fat accumulation in adipocytes and affects adipokines secretion by these cells. Moreover, the impact of investigated fatty acids: EPA and DHA on fat cells varies depending on the stage of maturation, and seems to be stronger in young cells than in mature and old ones. Docosahexaenoic acid exerts an anti-inflammatory action; however, on the basis of the obtained data it was not possible to determine whether eicosapentaenoic acid shows anti- or pro-inflammatory properties.

Adipocytes; Ageing; Inflammation; Obesity; EPA; DHA