Replenishment of docosahexaenoic acid in n-3 fatty acid-deficient fetal rats by intraamniotic ethyl-docosahexaenoate administration

Pnina Green, Batia Kamensky, Ephraim Yavin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A procedure for intraamniotic ethyl-docosahexaenoate (Et-DHA) administration was used to restore the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6 n-3) levels in n-3-deficient fetal rats. The state of deficiency, characterized by a 34% and 60% decrease in DHA content of fetal brain and liver, respectively, was attained by feeding the pregnant dams from day 8 and up to 20 days gestation, with an n-3 linolenic acid-deprived diet. After a single intraamniotic administration of Et-DHA on day 18 or 19, a rapid increase in both fetal brain and liver DHA was achieved. This increase was accompanied by a decrease in the docosapentaenoic acid (DPA; 22:5 n-6) level. After 48 hr following Et-DHA administration, the major phospholipids (PLs) phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), and phosphatidylcholine (PC), together accounting for more than 90% of total lipid phosphorus in sunflower oil (SFO)-treated animals, regained the DHA content to levels similar to control animals in both fetal brain and liver tissues. Unlike brain, however, most of the DHA content in liver PLs was restored by 24 hr, suggesting that the fetal liver may have a higher metabolic turnover. The DHA/DPA ratio was used to assess the degree of DHA correction. Fetal brain PS, PC, and PE ratios following Et-DHA administration grew steadily over a period of 48 hr but reached only approximately 60% of the control levels. Liver PS regained a value similar to the control, while those of PC and PE were 33% and 46% lower than the controls, respectively. Alterations in the PL polar head-group composition were observed following the dietary manipulations and Et-DHA administration. Although the intraamniotic injection is an invasive approach, the ability to rapidly enhance DHA acylation during intrauterine life may hold potential clinical value whenever an indication for DHA deficiency exists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-272
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • brain development
  • deficiency
  • docosahexaenoic acid
  • fetus
  • n-3 fatty acid
  • phospholipids
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids


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