Food and Behaviour Research

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08 August 2014 - ScienceDaily - Lipids boost the brain, study finds

Researchers have investigated the effect of lipids bearing polyunsaturated chains when they are integrated into cell membranes. Their work shows that the presence of these lipids makes the membranes more malleable and therefore more sensitive to deformation and fission by proteins.

Consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as omega-3 fatty acids) is good for the health. The effects range from neuronal differentiation to protection against cerebral ischemia. However the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects are poorly understood, prompting researchers to focus on the role of these fatty acids in cell membrane function.

In the work published in Science, the researchers show that cell- or artificial membranes rich in polyunsaturated lipids are much more sensitive to the action of two proteins, dynamin and endophilin, which facilitate membrane deformation and fission. Other measurements in the study and in simulations suggest that these lipids also make the membranes more malleable.

By facilitating the deformation and scission necessary for endocytosis, the presence of polyunsaturated lipids could explain rapid synaptic vesicle recycling. The abundance of these lipids in the brain could then represent a major advantage for cognitive function.

This work partially sheds light on the mode of action of omega-3. Considering that the body cannot synthesize them and that they can only be supplied by a suitable diet (rich in oily fish, etc.), it seems important to continue this work to understand the link between the functions performed by these lipids in the neuronal membrane and their health benefits.