The genetic and molecular pathways driving human brain white matter (WM) development are only beginning to be discovered. Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) have been implicated in myelination in animal models and humans. The biosynthesis of LC-PUFAs is regulated by the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) genes, of which a human-specific haplotype is strongly associated with omega-3 and omega-6 LC-PUFA concentrations in blood. To investigate the relationship between LC-PUFA synthesis and human brain WM development, we examined whether this FADS haplotype is associated with age-related WM differences across the life span in healthy individuals 9-86 years of age (n = 207). Diffusion tensor imaging was performed to measure fractional anisotropy (FA), a putative measure of myelination, of the cerebral WM tracts. FADS haplotype status was determined with a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs174583) that tags this haplotype. Overall, normal age-related WM differences were observed, including higher FA values in early adulthood compared with childhood, followed by lower FA values across older age ranges. However, individuals homozygous for the minor allele (associated with lower LC-PUFA concentrations) did not display these normal age-related WM differences (significant age Chi genotype interactions, p(corrected) < 0.05). These findings suggest that LC-PUFAs are involved in human brain WM development from childhood into adulthood. This haplotype and LC-PUFAs may play a role in myelin-related disorders of neurodevelopmental origin.
Faculty, Northwell Researcher
School of Medicine; Northwell Health