A growing literature suggests the association of low tissue levels and/or dietary intake of n-polyunsaturated
fatty acids (PUFA) with depressive illnesses. Animal studies show that low tissue and/or dietary n-3 PUFAs can lead to
behaviors and neurobiological effects associated with depression and can potentiate the consequences of stress, whereas
higher levels have the opposite effect. These data support the involvement of n-3 PUFAs levels in the disease processes
underlying depression. In addition, these pre-clinical findings indicate neurobiological mechanisms whereby n-3 PUFAs
may contribute to the disease including control of serotonergic and dopaminergic function, modulation of brain-derived
neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus, regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and effects on
neuroinflammation. This evidence for a role for n-3 PUFA in the pathophysiology and treatment of depressive illness are
reviewed. The implications of these finding for future pre-clinical research and clinical application are discussed.
Keywords: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, corticosterone, docosahexaenoic acid, dopamine, elevated plus maze, forced
swim test, neuroimmune, serotonin.
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