Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Symposium on ‘Functionality of nutrients and gene expression’

Selectivity of fatty acids on lipid metabolism and gene expression

Thierry Raclota1 c1 and Hugues Oudarta1

a1 Centre d’Ecologie et Physiologie Energétiques, UPR 9010 CNRS, associé à l’Université; Louis Pasteur, 23 rue Becquerel, 67087 Strasbourg Cedex 2, France


Triacylglycerols represent the main form of storage for a wide spectrum of fatty acids. Their utilization first involves mobilization from adipose tissue through lipolysis. The release of individual fatty acids from adipose tissue is selective in vitro and in vivo in animal studies and also in human subjects. Generally, fatty acids are more readily mobilized from fat cells when they are short-chain and unsaturated. This selectivity could affect the storage of individual fatty acids in adipose tissue, and their subsequent supply to tissues. The nature of the dietary fats could affect lipid homeostasis and body fat deposition. Dietary fish oil influences adipose tissue development in a site-specific manner as a function of diet and feeding period. A diet high in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) results in a preferential partitioning of ingested energy towards oxidation at the expense of storage. Fatty acids are important mediators of gene expression in the liver. Indeed, genes encoding both glycolytic and lipogenic enzymes and key metabolic enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation are regulated by dietary PUFA. White adipose tissue could also be a target for PUFA control of gene expression. The treatment of pre-adipose cells by fatty acids induces the expression of numerous genes that encode proteins involved in fatty acid metabolism. The mechanisms of PUFA-mediated repression of gene expression in adipocytes seem to be different, at least partly, from those described in liver. Tissue-specific and site-specific factors are possibly involved in the specific effect of PUFA on gene expression, although other mechanisms cannot be excluded.


c1 *Corresponding Author: Dr Thierry Raclot, fax +33 88106906, email