|Deficiency in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is associated with impaired visual and neurological postnatal development, cognitive decline, macular degeneration, and other neurodegenerative diseases. DHA is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acyl chain concentrated in phospholipids of brain and retina, with photoreceptor cells displaying the highest content of DHA of all cell membranes.
The identification and characterization of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1, 10R, 17S-dihydroxy-docosa-4Z,7Z,11E,13E,15Z,19Z-hexaenoic acid) contributes in understanding the biological significance of DHA. In oxidative stress-challenged human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, human brain cells, or rat brains undergoing ischemia-reperfusion, NPD1 synthesis is enhanced as a response for sustaining homeostasis. Thus, neurotrophins, Abeta peptide 42 (Abeta42), calcium ionophore A23187, interleukin (IL)-1beta, or DHA supply enhances NPD1 synthesis. NPD1, in turn, up-regulates the antiapoptotic proteins of the Bcl-2 family and decreases the expression of proapoptotic Bcl-2 family members. Moreover, NPD1 inhibits IL-1beta-stimulated expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2).
Because both RPE and photoreceptors are damaged and then die in retinal degenerations, elucidating how NPD1 signaling contributes to retinal cell survival may lead to a new understanding of disease mechanisms. In human neural cells, DHA attenuates amyloid-beta (Abeta) secretion, resulting in concomitant formation of NPD1. NPD1 was found to be reduced in the Alzheimer's disease (AD) cornu ammonis region 1 (CA1) hippocampal region, but not in other areas of the brain. The expression of key enzymes for NPD1 biosynthesis, cytosolic phospholipase A(2) (cPLA(2)), and 15-lipoxygenase (15-LOX) was found altered in the AD hippocampal CA1 region. NPD1 repressed Abeta42-triggered activation of pro-inflammatory genes and upregulated the antiapoptotic genes encoding Bcl-2, Bcl-xl, and Bfl-1(A1) in human brain cells in culture.
Overall, these results support the concept that NPD1 promotes brain and retina cell survival via the induction of antiapoptotic and neuroprotective gene-expression programs that suppress Abeta42-induced neurotoxicity and other forms of cell injury, which in turn fosters homeostasis during development in aging, as well as during the initiation and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.