(1) Effects of dietary treatment of male albino rats with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid on hepatic mitochondrial lipid metabolism have been investigated. (2) Mitochondria isolated from rats given these treatments were shown to have increased ability to respire on acyl-CoA esters in the presence of malonate. This effect was expressed with most of the long-chain acyl-CoA esters used as substrates. When malonate in the incubations was replaced with malate, mitochondria from treated animals were found to exhibit diminished rates of respiration on polyunsaturated acyl-CoA esters, in particular linolenoyl-, eicosapentaenoyl- and docosahexaenoyl-CoA. This phenomenon could not be attributed to changes in activity of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I or in peroxisomal β-oxidation. (3) Uncoupled respiration on glutamate, malate or succinate was also affected by treatment with EPA. With liver mitochondria isolated from rats that had been treated with a ω-3 fatty acid in the fasted state, the respiratory rates were lower than those observed with mitochondria isolated from control rats. Respiratory rates with mitochondria isolated from rats given the ω-3 fatty acid in the fed state was not significantly different from control rates. (4) In rats treated with EPA in the fed state, the amount of EPA incorporated into mitochondrial lipids was markedly more increased as compared to rats given ω-3 fatty acid in the fasted state. Incorporation of dietary EPA into tissue lipids was investigated, also following mildronate treatment of rats (an inhibitor of carnitine biosynthesis). (5) A hypolipidaemic effect of dietary EPA was only observed when the fatty acid was given to fed rats. Rats treated with EPA in the fasted state, in contrast, exhibited hypoglycaemia, the hypolipidaemic effects now being absent. (6) These results suggest that hypolipidaemia is most pronounced when the metabolic state favours incorporation of dietary EPA into body lipids rather than its β-oxidation, as mediated by the fed/fasted transition or by treatment with mildronate.

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