Persons with cystic fibrosis (CF) exhibit a unique alteration of fatty acid composition, marked especially among polyunsaturates by relative deficiency of linoleic acid and excess of Mead acid. Relative deficiency of docosahexaenoic acid is variably found. However, the initial development of these abnormalities is not understood. We examined fatty acid composition in young CF ferrets and pigs, finding abnormalities from the day of birth onward including relative deficiency of linoleic acid in both species. Fatty acid composition abnormalities were present in both liver and serum phospholipids of newborn CF piglets even prior to feeding, including reduced linoleic acid and increased Mead acid. Serum fatty acid composition evolved over the first weeks of life in both non-CF and CF ferrets, though differences between CF and non-CF persisted. Although red blood cell phospholipid fatty acid composition was normal in newborn animals, it became perturbed in juvenile CF ferrets including relative deficiencies of linoleic and docosahexaenoic acids and excess of Mead acid. In summary, fatty acid composition abnormalities in CF pigs and ferrets exist from a young age including at birth independent of feeding and overlap extensively with the abnormalities found in humans with CF. That the abnormalities exist prior to feeding implies that dietary measures alone will not address the mechanisms of imbalance.

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