Deuterium reveals anticancer activity of fatty acid

February 22, 2021

Metabolic tuning and visualization by Raman imaging

A research team of RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research and RIKEN CSRS focused on the anticancer activity of unsaturated fatty acid, and revealed that accumulation of the fatty acid in intracellular lipid droplets in cancer cells is the key to induce the cytotoxicity by an analysis using a derivative into which deuterium (2H or D) is introduced.

γ-Linolenic acid (GLA), a type of unsaturated fatty acid contained in seeds of plants such as evening primrose, is known for its anticancer activity, however its mechanisms of action remain unclear. Deuterium works for suppressing metabolism of fatty acid, as well as serves as labels for visualization by Raman imaging. The research team investigated cytotoxicity of GLA and deuterated GLA using normal human cells and tumor cells infected with an oncogenic virus. The team found that deuterated GLA reduced toxicity toward normal cells, therefore it showed cytotoxicity specific to the tumor cells. Further, by using Raman imaging, they observed that, while GLA was distributed throughout cytoplasm in the normal cells, it was accumulated in intracellular lipid droplets in the cancer cells. Overall, the results suggest that anticancer activity of GLA is due to the accumulation of GLA in intracellular lipid droplets in cancer cells without its metabolism.

The findings of this research may contribute to functional analyses of various fatty acids with bioactivity and development of new antitumor agents.

Original article
Chemical Communications doi:10.1039/d0cc07824g
K. Dodo, A. Sato, Y. Tamura, S. Egoshi, K. Fujiwara, K. Oonuma, S. Nakao, N. Terayama, M. Sodeoka,
"Synthesis of deuterated γ-linolenic acid and application for biological studies: metabolic tuning and Raman imaging".
Kosuke Dodo; Senior Research Scientist
Mikiko Sodeoka; Group Director
Catalysis and Integrated Research Group