We assessed whether the protective action of progesterone on traumatic brain injury (TBI) could be influenced by the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids during early life.

Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were fed on omega-3 adequate or deficient diet from 3rd day of pregnancy and their female offspring were kept on the same diets up to the age of 15weeks. Ovariectomy was performed at the age of 12weeks to deprive animals from endogenous steroids until the time of a fluid percussion injury (FPI).

Dietary n-3 fatty acid deficiency increased anxiety in sham animals and TBI aggravated the effects of the deficiency. Progesterone replacement counteracted the effects of TBI on the animals reared under n-3 deficiency. A similar pattern was observed for markers of membrane homeostasis such as 4-Hydroxynonenal (HNE) and secreted phospholipases A2 (sPLA2), synaptic plasticity such as brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), syntaxin (STX)-3 and growth associated protein (GAP)-43, and for growth inhibitory molecules such as myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG) and Nogo-A.

Results that progesterone had no effects on sham n-3 deficient animals suggest that the availability of progesterone is essential under injury conditions. Progesterone treatment counteracted several parameters related to synaptic plasticity and membrane stability reduced by FPI and n-3 deficiency suggest potential targets for therapeutic applications.

These results reveal the importance of n-3 preconditioning during early life and the efficacy of progesterone therapy during adulthood to counteract weaknesses in neuronal and behavioral plasticity.

This study was conducted using Nordic Naturals ProDHA™/DHA