The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of vegetable oil enrichment of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells on their biochemical and biophysical properties. For this, RPE cells were incubated with 4 different vegetables oils (olive oil, corn oil, argan oil, and camelina oil). The cytotoxicity of these vegetable oils was assessed in vivo on 8-week-old mice and in vitro by using the neutral red and YO-PRO-1 tests.

Membrane fluidity was evaluated by fluorescence anisotropy using the fluorescent probe diphenylhexatriene, and membrane fatty acid composition was assessed by gas chromatography. None of the oils tested displayed cytotoxic effects.

In vitro, omega-3 rich oils improved membrane fluidity by 47% compared with the control cells. The omega-3 PUFA content within membranes decreased by 38% to 55% when cells were incubated separately with olive oil, corn oil, or argan oil, and increased when cells were incubated with a mixture of those oils, or with camelina oil alone (50% and 103% increase, respectively).

Our results show that the fatty acids in vegetable oil incorporate into retinal cells and increase the plasma membrane fluidity.