Tight junctions (TJ) are the topical most structure in epithelial and endothelial cells and play a key role in the control of permeability and prevention of tumour cell invasion of endothelium.

In this study we examined the effects of a range of polyunsaturated fatty acids on the function of TJs and the expression of occludin, a key molecule in the TJs of the human vascular endothelial cell line, ECV304.

Treatment of the endothelial cells with gamma linolenic acid, an anti-cancer PUFA, increased the transendothelial cell resistance (TER) and reduced the paracellular permeability to large molecules.

The effects were seen without any changes in the viability of the endothelial cells.

Occludin, a recently identified molecule, which plays a major role in tight junctions was up-regulated by this fatty acid as revealed by both Western blotting and immunofluorescence.

Other fatty acids were also tested. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) also exerted an up-regulatory effect, but LA and AA down-regulated the expression.

We conclude that GLA and EPA which also have other anti-cancer effects, regulate the expression of occludin in endothelial cells and thus contribute to the modification of the TER of these cells.