BACKGROUND: To address the effect of the n-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (22:6), on proteins that play a role in cholesterol absorption, CaCo-2 cells were incubated with taurocholate micelles alone or micelles containing 22:6 or oleic acid (18:1).

METHODS: Compared with controls or 18:1, 22:6 did not interfere with the cellular uptake of micellar cholesterol. Apical cholesterol efflux was enhanced in cells incubated with 22:6. Cholesterol trafficking from the plasma membrane to the endoplasmic reticulum was decreased by 22:6. 22:6 decreased Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1 (NPC1L1) protein and mRNA levels without altering gene or protein expression of ACAT2, annexin-2, caveolin-1, or ABCG8.

RESULTS: Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor {delta} (PPAR{delta}) activation decreased NPC1L1 mRNA levels and cholesterol trafficking to the endoplasmic reticulum, suggesting that 22:6 may act through PPAR{delta}. Compared with hamsters fed a control diet or olive oil (enriched 18:1), NPC1L1 mRNA levels were decreased in duodenum and jejunum of hamsters ingesting fish oil (enriched 22:6). In an intestinal cell, independent of changes in ABCG8 expression, 22:6 increases the apical efflux of cholesterol. 22:6 interferes with cholesterol trafficking to the endoplasmic reticulum by the suppression of NPC1L1, perhaps through the activation of PPAR{delta}.

CONCLUSION: Moreover, a diet enriched in n-3 fatty acids decreases the gene expression of NPC1L1 in duodenum and jejunum of hamster.