Fatty Acids and Bone Biology

Nutraceutical Fatty Acids as Biochemical and Molecular Modulators of Skeletal Biology

Bruce A. Watkins, PhD, FACN, Yong Li, PhD, and Mark F. Seifert, PhD

Department of Food Science, Lipid Chemistry and Molecular Biology Laboratory, Purdue University, West Lafayette, and Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana [watkins@foodsci.purdue.edu]

Several systemic hormones and localized growth factors coordinate events of bone formation and resorption to support bone growth in the young and maintain bone mineral content in the adult. Some of the more important factors produced in the bone microenvironment that impact skeletal biology include prostaglandins, cytokines, and insulin-like growth factors. Dietary fat sources that exert potent biological effects on the skeletal tissues belong to the omega-6 and omega-3 families of essential fatty acids. Specific long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) belonging to these families are substrates for prostanoids that influence the differentiation and activity of cells in bone and cartilage tissues. These PUFA appear to alter prostanoid formation, cell-to-cell signaling processes, and impact transcription factors in vivo. Hence, these biologically active PUFA can be called nutraceutical fatty acids. This review highlights the role of nutraceutical fatty acids on bone metabolism and joint disease. The recent discovery of transcription factors controlling osteoblast function, and soluble proteins directing osteoclastogenesis and osteoblastogenesis offer new research opportunities for studying nutraceutical fatty acids in skeletal biology.

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