Journal of Lipid Research (Sep 2018)

Differential composition of DHA and very-long-chain PUFAs in rod and cone photoreceptors

  • Martin-Paul Agbaga,
  • Dana K. Merriman,
  • Richard S. Brush,
  • Todd A. Lydic,
  • Shannon M. Conley,
  • Muna I. Naash,
  • Shelley Jackson,
  • Amina S. Woods,
  • Gavin E. Reid,
  • Julia V. Busik,
  • Robert E. Anderson

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 59, no. 9
pp. 1586 – 1596


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Long-chain PUFAs (LC-PUFAs; C20–C22; e.g., DHA and arachidonic acid) are highly enriched in vertebrate retina, where they are elongated to very-long-chain PUFAs (VLC-PUFAs; C ≥28) by the elongation of very-long-chain fatty acids-4 (ELOVL4) enzyme. These fatty acids play essential roles in modulating neuronal function and health. The relevance of different lipid requirements in rods and cones to disease processes, such as age-related macular degeneration, however, remains unclear. To better understand the role of LC-PUFAs and VLC-PUFAs in the retina, we investigated the lipid compositions of whole retinas or photoreceptor outer segment (OS) membranes in rodents with rod- or cone-dominant retinas. We analyzed fatty acid methyl esters and the molecular species of glycerophospholipids (phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylserine) by GC-MS/GC-flame ionization detection and ESI-MS/MS, respectively. We found that whole retinas and OS membranes in rod-dominant animals compared with cone-dominant animals had higher amounts of LC-PUFAs and VLC-PUFAs. Compared with those of rod-dominant animals, retinas and OS membranes from cone-dominant animals also had about 2-fold lower levels of di-DHA (22:6/22:6) molecular species of glycerophospholipids. Because PUFAs are necessary for optimal G protein-coupled receptor signaling in rods, these findings suggest that cones may not have the same lipid requirements as rods.