Epidemiological, clinical and experimental evidence suggests that fatty acids have a modulatory effect on bone metabolism in animals and humans. To investigate this hypothesis, we evaluated the effects of three different fatty acids, arachidonic acid (AA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and oleic acid (OA), on the expression of cytokines involved in bone remodelling. Cytokine mRNAs in the human osteoblast-like cell line MG-63 were quantified by reverse transcription-PCR. AA induced increased expression of interleukin-1α, interleukin-1β, tumour necrosis factor-α and macrophage colony-stimulating factor mRNAs in a time- and dose-dependent manner. EPA and OA had no stimulatory effects, but instead caused a significant inhibition of AA-induced cytokine mRNA expression. Cell treatment with calphostin C, an inhibitor of protein kinase C (PKC), and cellular PKC down-regulation experiments independently resulted in significant inhibition of AA-induced cytokine expression, suggesting that a PKC-dependent mechanism accounts for the effects of AA on cytokine production. In conclusion, our study demonstrates specific effects of fatty acids on cytokine gene expression in human osteoblast-like cells. The clinical relevance of our findings requires further investigation.

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