Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids impinge on CD4+ T cell motility and adipose tissue distribution via direct and lipid mediator-dependent effects

Danilo Cucchi, Dolores Camacho-muñoz, Michelangelo Certo, Jennifer Niven, Joanne Smith, Anna Nicolaou, Claudio Mauro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adaptive immunity contributes to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular metabolic disorders (CVMD). The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3PUFA) are beneficial for cardiovascular health, with potential to improve the dysregulated adaptive immune responses associated with metabolic imbalance. We aimed to explore the mechanisms through which n-3PUFA may alter T cell motility and tissue distribution to promote a less inflammatory environment and improve lymphocyte function in CVMD.

Methods and results
Using mass spectrometry lipidomics, cellular, biochemical, and in vivo and ex vivo analyses, we investigated how eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the main n-3PUFA, modify the trafficking patterns of activated CD4+ T cells. In mice subjected to allogeneic immunization, a 3-week n-3PUFA-enriched diet reduced the number of effector memory CD4+ T cells found in adipose tissue, and changed the profiles of eicosanoids, octadecanoids, docosanoids, endocannabinoids, 2-monoacylglycerols, N-acyl ethanolamines, and ceramides, in plasma, lymphoid organs, and fat tissues. These bioactive lipids exhibited differing chemotactic properties when tested in chemotaxis assays with activated CD4+ T cells in vitro. Furthermore, CD4+ T cells treated with EPA and DHA showed a significant reduction in chemokinesis, as assessed by trans-endothelial migration assays, and, when implanted in recipient mice, demonstrated less efficient migration to the inflamed peritoneum. Finally, EPA and DHA treatments reduced the number of polarized CD4+ T cells in vitro, altered the phospholipid composition of membrane microdomains and decreased the activity of small Rho GTPases, Rhoα, and Rac1 instrumental in cytoskeletal dynamics.

Our findings suggest that EPA and DHA affect the motility of CD4+ T cells and modify their ability to reach target tissues by interfering with the cytoskeletal rearrangements required for cell migration. This can explain, at least in part, the anti-inflammatory effects of n-3PUFA supporting their potential use in interventions aiming to address adipocyte low-grade inflammation associated with cardiovascular metabolic disease.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCardiovascular research
Early online date10 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • n-3PUFA
  • CD4þ T cell
  • Adipose tissue
  • Cardiovascular metabolic disease
  • Mass spectrometry lipidomics


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