Chlorella vulgaris has the gene of n-3 fatty acid desaturase (CvFad3), which can synthesize the precursor of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) or convert n-6 to n-3 PUFAs. The objective of the present study was to examine whether the CvFad3 gene from C. vulgaris can be functionally and efficiently expressed in human breast cancer cells and whether its expression can exert a significant effect on cell fatty acid composition. We inserted the CvFad3 gene into the plasmid pEGFP-C3 to construct the eukaryotic expression vector pEGFP-C3-n-3 and to express the n-3 Fad gene in human breast cancer cells (MCF-7 cells). Transfection of MCF-7 cells with the recombinant vector resulted in a high expression of n-3 fatty acid desaturase. Lipid analysis indicated that the ratio of n-6/n-3 PUFAs was decreased from 6:1 in the control cells to about 1:1 in the cells expressing the n-3 fatty acid desaturase. Accordingly, the CvFad3 gene significantly decreased the ratio of n-6/n-3 PUFAs of the MCF-7 cell membrane. The expression of the CvFad3 gene can decrease cell proliferation and promote cell apoptosis. This study demonstrates that the CvFad3 gene can dramatically balance the ratio of n-6/n-3 PUFAs and may provide an effective approach to the modification of the fatty acid composition of mammalian cells, also providing a basis for potential applications of its transfer in experimental and clinical settings
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