We examined the effect of the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content of lipoproteins on their metabolism in vivo by a radioisotope labeling and tracking method.

Purified HDL and LDL were labeled with (3)H-cholesteryl oleate tracer. To mimic dietary-related changes in fatty acid composition of lipoproteins, we incorporated lipids acylated with either DHA, arachidonic (AA) or oleic (OA) acid to phosphatidylcholine (didocosahexaenoylphosphatidylcholine (di22:6-PC), diarachidonoylphosphatidylcholine (di20:4-PC) and dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (di18:0-PC), respectively) into the purified particles.

The lipids, at the amount added, did not cause detectable alterations in the morphology of the lipoproteins. Levels of radiotracers in blood and in several target tissues such as brain, heart, liver, muscle and adipose were determined at 1.5, 3 and 24h after intravenous injection into C57Bl/6J mice.

No statistically significant differences were detected in the tissue distribution of tracers introduced into HDL enriched in DHA, compared to particles enriched with OA.

In contrast, we found a significantly higher proportion of radiolabel associated with LDL enriched in DHA in heart, brown adipose and brain tissues. The uptake of labels associated with DHA containing LDL nearly doubled for heart and brown adipose tissues at 1.5 and 3h, and it was 30% higher for brain tissues at 24h.

The tissue distribution of labels from the same particles enriched in AA or OA did not show a statistically significant difference from unaltered control lipoproteins.

These findings point to the possible role of DHA in the regulation of LDL metabolism and involvement of the lipoproteins in transport of n-3 PUFA to target organs.