Dihomo-γ-linolenic acid inhibits several key cellular processes associated with atherosclerosis

Hayley Gallagher, Jessica O. Williams, Nele Ferekidis, Alaa Ismail, Yee Hung Chan, Daryn R. Michael, Irina A. Guschina, Victoria J. Tyrrell, Valerie B. O'Donnell, John L. Harwood, Inna Khozin-Goldberg, S. Boussiba, Dipak P. Ramji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Atherosclerosis and its complications are responsible for one in three global deaths. Nutraceuticals show promise in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis but require an indepth understanding of the mechanisms underlying their actions. A previous study showed that the omega-6 fatty acid, dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA), attenuated atherosclerosis in the apolipoprotein E deficient mouse model system. However, the mechanisms underlying such protective effects of DGLA are poorly understood and were therefore investigated. We show that DGLA attenuates chemokine-driven monocytic migration together with foam cell formation and the expression of key pro-atherogenic genes induced by three pro-inflammatory cytokines in human macrophages. The effect of DGLA on interferon-γ signaling was mediated via inhibition of signal transducer and activator of transcription-1 phosphorylation on serine 727. In relation to anti-foam cell action, DGLA inhibits modified LDL uptake by both macropinocytosis and receptor-mediated endocytosis, the latter by reduction in expression of two key scavenger receptors (SR-A and CD36), and stimulates cholesterol efflux from foam cells. DGLA also improves macrophage mitochondrial bioenergetic profile by decreasing proton leak. Gamma-linolenic acid and prostaglandin E1, upstream precursor and key metabolite respectively of DGLA, also acted in an anti-atherogenic manner. The actions of DGLA extended to other key atherosclerosis-associated cell types with attenuation of endothelial cell proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells in response to platelet-derived growth factor. This study provides novel insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the anti-atherogenic actions of DGLA and supports further assessments on its protective effects on plaque regression in vivo and in human trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2538-2550
Number of pages13
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Dihomo-γ-linolenic acid
  • Foam cells
  • Gene expression
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages
  • Smooth muscle cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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