Dietary essential fatty acids are the precursors for eicosanoids. Among the eicosanoids derived from arachidonic acid, prostaglandin (PG) E is known to possess immunosuppressive actions. Thus, it has been a prevailing hypothesis that the immuno-modulatory roles of dietary fatty acids are mediated at least in part through the alteration of PG biosynthesis. PGs exert their biological effects through their cognate receptors. There are four subtypes of PGE receptors (EP1, EP2, EP3, and EP4) so far identified. Although the association of EP receptors with G proteins coupled to adenylate cyclase and the mobilization of intracellular calcium are well documented, downstream signaling pathways for these receptors are virtually unknown. Identification of downstream signaling pathways for each subtype of EP receptors and target genes regulated by the activation of the receptor will help with our understanding of the mechanism by which dietary fatty acids affect immune responses through the modulation of PGE biosynthesis. Emerging evidence suggests that fatty acids can additionally act as second messengers, regulators of signal transducing molecules or transcription factors. Acylation with long-chain fatty acids can occur on a variety of signaling molecules and can affect their membrane translocation and functions. Dietary fatty acids can alter functional properties of lipid mediators by changing the composition of acyl moieties of these molecules. Evidence accumulated recently indicates that long-chain unsaturated fatty acids and their metabolites bind and activate peroxisome proliferator–activated receptors (PPARs). PPARs are nuclear hormone receptors and transcription factors that regulate the expression of broad arrays of genes involved not only in lipid and glucose metabolism, but also in immune and inflammatory responses. PPARs may therefore be important cellular targets that mediate modulation of immune responses by dietary fatty acids. Together, it becomes clear now that multiple steps in various receptor-mediated signaling pathways can be modulated by dietary fatty acids. It will be a challenging task to quantitatively determine how different fatty acids alter functional properties of multitude of signaling components and final cellular responses. Elucidating the mechanism of actions of fatty acids on receptor-mediated signaling pathways in immuno-competent cells will provide a new insight for understanding the immuno-modulatory roles of dietary fatty acids.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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