Plasma oxylipins and unesterified precursor fatty acids are altered by DHA supplementation in pregnancy: Can they help predict risk of preterm birth?

Christopher E. Ramsden, Maria Makrides, Zhi Xin Yuan, Mark S. Horowitz, Daisy Zamora, Lisa N. Yelland, Karen Best, Jennifer Jensen, Ameer Y. Taha, Robert A. Gibson

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Oxidized lipids derived from omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids, collectively known as oxylipins, are bioactive signaling molecules that play diverse roles in human health and disease. Supplementation with n-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during pregnancy has been reported to decrease the risk of preterm birth in singleton pregnancies, which may be due to effects of DHA supplementation on oxylipins or their precursor n-6 and n-3 fatty acids. There is only limited understanding of the levels and trajectory of changes in plasma oxylipins during pregnancy, effects of DHA supplementation on oxylipins and unesterified fatty acids, and whether and how oxylipins and their unesterified precursor fatty acids influence preterm birth. In the present study we used liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to profile oxylipins and their precursor fatty acids in the unesterified pool using plasma samples collected from a subset of pregnant Australian women who participated in the ORIP (Omega-3 fats to Reduce the Incidence of Prematurity) study. ORIP is a large randomized controlled trial testing whether daily supplementation with n-3 DHA can reduce the incidence of early preterm birth compared to control. Plasma was collected at study entry (≈pregnancy week 14) and again at ≈week 24, in a subgroup of 48 ORIP participants—12 cases with spontaneous preterm (<37 weeks) birth and 36 matched controls with spontaneous term (≥40 weeks) birth. In the combined preterm and term pregnancies, we observed that in the control group without DHA supplementation unesterified AA and AA-derived oxylipins 12-HETE, 15-HETE and TXB2 declined between weeks 14–24 of pregnancy. Compared to control, DHA supplementation increased unesterified DHA, EPA, and AA, DHA-derived 4-HDHA, 10-HDHA and 19,20-EpDPA, and AA-derived 12-HETE at 24 weeks. In exploratory analysis independent of DHA supplementation, participants with concentrations above the median for 5-lipoxygenase derivatives of AA (5-HETE, Odds Ratio (OR) 8.2; p = 0.014) or DHA (4-HDHA, OR 8.0; p = 0.015) at 14 weeks, or unesterified AA (OR 5.1; p = 0.038) at 24 weeks had higher risk of spontaneous preterm birth. The hypothesis that 5-lipoxygenase-derived oxylipins and unesterified AA could serve as mechanism-based biomarkers predicting spontaneous preterm birth should be evaluated in larger, adequately powered studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102041
JournalProstaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Feb 2020


  • Arachidonic
  • Development
  • Docosahexaenoic
  • Linoleic
  • Oxylipins
  • Plasma
  • Preterm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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