Gamma-linolenic acid, Dihommo-gamma linolenic, Eicosanoids and Inflammatory Processes

Susan Sergeant, Elaheh Rahbar, Floyd H. Chilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3n-6) is an omega-6 (n-6), 18 carbon (18C-) polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) found in human milk and several botanical seed oils and is typically consumed as part of a dietary supplement. While there have been numerous in vitro and in vivo animal models which illustrate that GLA-supplemented diets attenuate inflammatory responses, clinical studies utilizing GLA or GLA in combination with omega-3 (n-3) PUFAs have been much less conclusive. A central premise of this review is that there are critical metabolic and genetic factors that affect the conversion of GLA to dihommo-gamma linolenic acid (DGLA, 20:3n-6) and arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6), which consequently affects the balance of DGLA- and AA- derived metabolites. As a result, these factors impact the clinical effectiveness of GLA or GLA/(n-3) PUFA supplementations in treating inflammatory conditions. Specifically, these factors include: 1) the capacity for different human cells and tissues to convert GLA to DGLA and AA and to metabolize DGLA and AA to bioactive metabolites; 2) the opposing effects of DGLA and AA metabolites on inflammatory processes and diseases; and 3) the impact of genetic variations within the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene cluster, in particular, on AA/DGLA ratios and bioactive metabolites. We postulate that these factors influence the heterogeneity of results observed in GLA supplement-based clinical trials and suggest that “one-size fits all” approaches utilizing PUFA-based supplements may no longer be appropriate for the prevention and treatment of complex human diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Arachidonic acid
  • Dihommo gamma-linolenic acid
  • Eicosanoid
  • Gamma-linolenic acid
  • Inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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