Zinc accumulation may impair cellular bioenergetics, which is associated with neuronal apoptosis. We simultaneously assessed anaerobic and aerobic metabolism in live cells to characterise this effect and hypothesised that the omega 3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) would protect against any zinc mediated alterations in bioenergetics.

In this study we observed a decrease in cellular oxygen consumption, but not glycolytic rate, following chronic zinc exposure, which was specific for neuronal cells.

This was due to impaired ATP turnover, without any other effects on mitochondrial function, and was restored by DHA. DHA had no further effects on bioenergetics. These data suggest that zinc disrupts bioenergetics at a point distal to the respiratory chain, which is restored by DHA.