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Identification of the Eph receptor pathway as a novel target for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) modification of gene expression in human colon adenocarcinoma cells (HT-29)

Joanne F Doleman*, John J Eady, Ruan M Elliott, Rob J Foxall, John Seers, Ian T Johnson and Elizabeth K Lund

Author Affiliations

Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich, NR4 7UA, UK

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2010, 7:56  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-56

Published: 12 July 2010



The health benefits of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly those of the n-3 series are well documented. The mechanisms by which these effects are mediated are not fully clarified.


We used microarrays to assess the effects on gene expression in HT29 colon adenocarcinoma cells of exposure to the n-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). HT29 cells were cultured with EPA (150 μM) for up to 24 hr prior to harvesting and isolation of RNA. Microarray results were analyzed within the statistical package 'R', and GeneGo MetaCore was used to identify key pathways of altered gene expression.


EphB4, Vav2 and EphA1 gene expression were identified as significantly altered by EPA treatment. Statistically significant changes in gene expression after HT29 exposure to EPA were confirmed in a second experiment by real-time RT-PCR (TaqMan), This experiment also compared the effects of exposure to EPA to arachadonic acid (AA, n-6). Corresponding changes in protein expression were also assessed by Western blotting.


Eph receptor mediated signaling is an entirely novel signaling pathway through which EPA may promote a wide range of health benefits, in particular in relation to reduction of colorectal cancer progression.