EPA and DHA elicit distinct transcriptional responses to high-fat feeding in skeletal muscle and liver

Hawley E. Kunz, Surendra Dasari, Ian R. Lanza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) exert numerous beneficial biological effects and attenuate diet-induced insulin resistance in rodent models. In the present study, the independent, tissue-specific effects of two nutritionally relevant n-3 PUFAs, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), were characterized in the context of a high-fat diet (HFD). EPA and DHA supplementation (3.2% of total fat) in 6-mo-old male C57BL/6 mice fed an HFD (60% fat) partially mitigated reductions in insulin sensitivity. At 5 wk, the area above the curve below baseline glucose following an intraperitoneal insulin tolerance test was 54.5% lower in HFD than control, whereas HFD EPA and HFD DHA showed 27.6% and 17.1% reductions, respectively. At 10 wk, HFD increased mitochondrial oxidative capacity supported by lipid and carbohydrate-based substrates in both liver and skeletal muscle (P < 0.05), with little effect of EPA or DHA supplementation. Whole genome transcriptomic analyses revealed HFD-induced transcriptional changes indicative of inflammation and fibrosis in both liver and muscle. Gene set enrichment analyses indicated a downregulation of transcripts associated with extracellular matrix in muscle (family-wise error rate P < 0.01) and liver (P = 0.04) and in transcripts associated with inflammation in muscle (P = 0.03) in HFD DHA compared with HFD alone. In contrast, EPA appeared to potentiate some proinflammatory effects of the HFD. In the skeletal muscle, DHA increased the expression of stress-responsive genes, whereas EPA upregulated the expression of transcripts related to cell cycle. Therefore, although both EPA and DHA supplementation during HFD partially preserve insulin signaling, they modulate distinct processes, highlighting their unique biological effects in the context of obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E460-E472
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • DHA
  • EPA
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Liver
  • Mitochondria
  • Muscle
  • Omega-3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'EPA and DHA elicit distinct transcriptional responses to high-fat feeding in skeletal muscle and liver'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this