British Journal of Nutrition

Lipid Metabolism

Effect of dietary fatty acid composition on inositol-, choline- and ethanolamine-phospholipids of mammary tissue and erythrocytes in the rat

Christine M. Williamsa1 and K. Maundera1

a1 The Nutrition Research Group, Department of Biochemistry, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 5XH


The present study investigated the effect of feeding maize-oil, olive-oil and fish-oil diets, from weaning to adulthood, on rat mammary tissue and erythrocyte phospholipid fatty acid compositions. Effects of diet on the relative proportions of membrane phospholipids in the two tissues were also investigated. Mammary tissue phosphatidylinositol (PI) fatty acids were unaltered by diet, but differences in phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and, to a lesser extent, phosphatidylcholine (PC) fractions were found between animals fed on different diets from weaning. Differences observed were those expected from the dietary fatty acids fed; n-6 fatty acids were found in greatest amounts in maize-oil-fed rats, n-9 in olive-oil-fed rats, and n-3 in fish-oil-fed rats. In erythrocytes the relative susceptibilities of the individual phospholipids to dietary modification were: PE > PC > PI, but enrichment with n-9 and n-3 fatty acids was not observed in olive-oil- and fish-oil-fed animals and in PC and PE significantly greater amounts of saturated fatty acids were found when animals fed on olive oil or fish oil were compared with maize-oil-fed animals. The polyunsaturated: saturated fatty acid ratios of PE and PC fractions were significantly lower in olive-oil- and fish-oil-fed animals. No differences in the relative proportions of phospholipid classes were found between the three dietary groups. It is suggested that differences in erythrocyte fatty acid composition may reflect dietary-induced changes in membrane cholesterol content and may form part of a homoeostatic response the aim of which is to maintain normal erythrocyte membrane fluidity. The resistance of mammary tissue PI fatty acids to dietary modification suggests that alteration of PI fatty acids is unlikely to underlie effects of dietary fat on mammary tumour incidence rates.

(Received October 22 1990)

(Accepted August 01 1991)