Effects of dietary n-3 fatty acid deficiency and repletion in the guinea pig retina

Harrison Scott Weisinger, Algis Jonas Vingrys, Bang Viet Bui, Andrew James Sinclair

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PURPOSE. To investigate the nature and reversibility of biochemical and functional changes in the retina encountered over a single generation of dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid deficiency in guinea pigs. METHODS. Dunkin-Hartley guinea pigs were fed for 16 weeks after weaning with diets supplemented with safflower seed oil (n-3 deficient) or canola oil (n-3 sufficient, control). A number of deficient animals were repleted at 6 weeks with canola oil for 5 or 10 weeks, or at 11 weeks for 5 weeks. Electroretinograms (0.8 and 4.3 log scot td · sec) were collected at 6, 11, and 16 weeks after weaning. Conventional waveforms (a- and b-waves), oscillatory potentials, and receptoral and postreceptoral subcomponents (PIII and PII, respectively) were evaluated. Cone pathway function was assessed with 30-Hz flicker at the brighter intensity. Retinal phospholipid fatty acids were measured by capillary gas-liquid chromatography. RESULTS. Electroretinographic amplitudes showed statistically significant losses in b- and a-waves after 6 and 16 weeks of dietary n-3 deficiency, respectively. The response amplitude to 30-Hz flicker was reduced 42% after 16 weeks. Retinal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels of animals maintained on the safflower oil diet for 16 weeks were 42% of levels in age-matched control subjects. There were significant losses in maximum response amplitudes (R(mPIII) and R(mPII)), although the major effect was a reduction in sensitivity of the receptoral response. Complete functional recovery was observed only in animals repleted for 10 weeks. CONCLUSIONS. Functional deficits in PIII and PII of the electroretinogram were apparent in first- generation guinea pigs fed an n-3 deficient diet. These losses showed a correlation with age and retinal DHA level, although varying degrees of dependence on the DHA level were found. All functional deficits were reversed after 10 weeks of dietary n-3 repletion. The results suggest that DHA may serve several functional and structural roles in the retina and further emphasize the requirement for DHA in the normal development of vision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-338
Number of pages12
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 1999
Externally publishedYes

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