Beneficial effect of docosahexaenoic acid on cholestatic liver injury in rats

Wen-Ying Chen, Shih-Yi Lin, Hung-Chuan Pan, Su-Lan Liao, Yu-Han Chuang, Yu-Ju Yen, Szu-Yin Lin, Chun-Jung Chen
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2012, 23 (3): 252-64
Bile duct obstruction and subsequent cholestasis are associated with hepatocellular injury, cholangiocyte proliferation, stellate cell activation, Kupffer cell activation, oxidative stress, inflammation and fibrosis. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to possess health beneficial effects, including hepatoprotection. However, the molecular mechanism of DHA-mediated hepatoprotection is not fully understood. In the present study, we report the protective effect of DHA on cholestatic liver injury. Cholestasis was produced by bile duct ligation (BDL) in male Sprague-Dawley rats for 3 weeks. Daily administration of DHA was started 2 weeks before injury and lasted for 5 weeks. In comparison with the control group, the BDL group showed hepatic damage as evidenced by histological changes and elevation in serum biochemicals, ductular reaction, fibrosis, inflammation and oxidative stress. These pathophysiological changes were attenuated by chronic DHA supplementation. DHA alleviated BDL-induced transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGF-β1), intereukin-1beta, connective tissue growth factor and collagen expression. The anti-fibrotic effect of DHA was accompanied by reductions in α-smooth muscle actin-positive matrix-producing cells and Smad 2/3 activity critical to the fibrogenic potential of TGF-β1. DHA also attenuated BDL-induced leukocyte accumulation and nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activation. Further studies demonstrated an inhibitory effect of DHA on redox-sensitive intracellular signaling molecule extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Taken together, the hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects of DHA seem to be multifactorial. The beneficial effects of chronic DHA supplementation are associated with anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory potential as well as down-regulation of NF-κB and transforming growth factor beta/Smad signaling probably via interference with ERK activation.

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