Docosahexaenoic acid accumulates in cardiolipin and enhances HT-29 cell oxidant production

Steven M. Watkins, Lynne C. Carter, J. Bruce German

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to investigate membrane fatty acids for their effects on mitochondrial function in live cells. Mitochondrial potential and oxidant production were measured in human colonic adenocarcinoma (HT-29) cells with membranes enhanced in either oleic acid, linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, or docosahexaenoic acid. Docosahexaenoic acid-enriched cells had increased mitochondrial potential and produced 5-fold more cellular oxidants than did cells enriched with any other fatty acid. Oxidant production in fatty acid-enriched HT-29 cells did not correlate with the degree of unsaturation for total membrane fatty acids. However, there was a strong correlation between the degree of fatty acid unsaturation of cardiolipin, a critical inner-mitochondrial membrane phospholipid, and oxidant production. Cardiolipin acyl composition is known to influence the activity of electron transport complexes, an effect that can increase mitochondrial oxidant production. Docosahexaenoic acid was enriched to 48 mol% of the fatty acids present in HT-29 cell cardiolipin. These results demonstrate the importance of membrane acyl composition to mitochondrial potential and oxidant production in live cells. Additionally, results suggest that docosahexaenoic acid increases cell oxidant production by accumulating in cardiolipin, where its presence alters electron transport efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1583-1588
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1998


  • Cardiolipin
  • Dihydrorhodamine 123
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Fatty acid metabolism
  • Flow cytometry
  • HT- 29 cells
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitochondrial potential
  • Oxidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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