High omega arachidonic acid/docosahexaenoic acid ratio induces mitochondrial dysfunction and altered lipid metabolism in human hepatoma cells

Reem Ghazali, Kosha J. Mehta, S. W.Annie Bligh, Ihab Tewfik, Dahn Clemens, Vinood B. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common cause of liver disease worldwide and is a growing epidemic. A high ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet has been implicated in the development of NAFLD. However, the inflicted cellular pathology remains unknown. A high ratio may promote lipogenic pathways and contribute to reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated damage, perhaps leading to mitochondrial dysfunction. Therefore, these parameters were investigated to understand their contribution to NAFLD development. AIM To examine the effect of increasing ratios of omega-6:3 fatty acids on mitochondrial function and lipid metabolism mediators. METHODS HepG2-derived VL-17A cells were treated with normal (1:1, 4:1) and high (15:1, 25:1) ratios of omega-6: omega-3 fatty acids [arachidonic acid (AA): docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] at various time points. Mitochondrial activity and function were examined via MTT assay and Seahorse XF24 analyzer, respectively. Triglyceride accumulation was determined by using EnzyChrom™ and levels of ROS were measured by fluorescence intensity. Protein expression of the mediators of lipogenic, lipolytic and endocannabinoid pathways was assessed by Western blotting. RESULTS High AA:DHA ratio decreased mitochondrial activity (P < 0.01; up to 80%) and promoted intracellular triglyceride accumulation (P < 0.05; 40%-70%). Mechanistically, it altered the mediators of lipid metabolism; increased the expression of stearoyl-CoA desaturase (P < 0.05; 22%-35%), decreased the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha (P < 0.05; 30%-40%) and increased the expression of cannabinoid receptor 1 (P < 0.05; 31%). Furthermore, the high ratio increased ROS production (P < 0.01; 74%-115%) and reduced mitochondrial respiratory functions such as basal and maximal respiration, ATP production, spare respiratory capacity and proton leak (P < 0.01; 35%-68%). CONCLUSION High AA:DHA ratio induced triglyceride accumulation, increased oxidative stress and disrupted mitochondrial functions. Stimulation of lipogenic and steroidal transcription factors may partly mediate these effects and contribute to NAFLD development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-98
Number of pages15
JournalWorld Journal of Hepatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 27 2020


  • Lipogenesis
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Omega fatty acids
  • Oxidative stress
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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