Docosatetraenoic acid (DTA) is a very long chain omega-6 fatty acid with 22 carbons and 4 double bonds (22:4n6).
It is synthesized by adding 2 carbons atoms to the backbone of arachidonic acid using the elongase enzyme. It is sometimes referred to by its common name adrenic acid and is one of the most abundant fatty acids in the early human brain and the adrenal gland. DTA has not been well studied, though it has recently been shown to have important physiologic functions. It is now believed to be a pro-resolving mediator in inflammation by blocking neutrophilic metabolites and dampening the inflammation response. For example, in osteoarthritis DTA enhances phagocytosis by macrophages which clears products of cartilage breakdown in the joint space. Supplementation of DTA is being studied as a promising intervention in osteoarthritis to dampen inflammation and prevent structural damage.
Much like AA (its precursor) DTA/adrenic acid is an important component of infant development. DTA is the third most abundant PUFA in the brain and it is necessary for neural tissue development. DTA is also prevalent in the vasculature. It is metabolized to biologically active prostaglandins and epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs) which activate smooth muscle channels causing relaxation and vasodilation. There is some literature to also support DTA/adrenic acid’s role in inducing oxidative stress and cell death through modulating superoxide dismutase enzymes.
- Kopf PG, Zhang DX, Gauthier KM, et al. Adrenic acid metabolites as endogenous endothelium-derived and zona glomerulosa-derived hyperpolarizing factors. Hypertension. 2010;55(2):547-554.
- Brouwers H, Jonasdottir H, Kwekkeboom J, et al. Adrenic acid as a novel anti-inflammatory player in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2018;26:S126.
- Hadley KB, Ryan AS, Forsyth S, Gautier S, Salem N. The essentiality of arachidonic acid in infant development. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):216.
- Yi XY, Gauthier KM, Cui L, Nithipatikom K, Falck JR, Campbell WB. Metabolism of adrenic acid to vasodilatory 1alpha,1beta-dihomo-epoxyeicosatrienoic acids by bovine coronary arteries. American journal of physiology Heart and circulatory physiology. 2007;292(5):H2265-2274.
- Nababan SHH, Nishiumi S, Kawano Y, Kobayashi T, Yoshida M, Azuma T. Adrenic acid as an inflammation enhancer in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Archives of biochemistry and biophysics. 2017;623:64-75.
Diets low in omega-6 fatty acids and arachidonic acid would result in lower levels of DTA/adrenic acid. The clinical significance of low levels may be relevant in infant and fetal development.
Elevations of DTA/adrenic acid are seen in diets rich in omega-6s and arachidonic acid (animal meat/fats and eggs). The clinical significance of adrenic acid is still being studied. Its importance in fetal development, osteoarthritis, and vasodilation have been documented, though some of the research is in animal studies. It has also been found to be elevated in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Because its precursor is AA, elevations due to high AA intake have deleterious associations as outlined above in the AA section.
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