It has been proven that dietary eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5 n-3 or EPA) protects the heart against the deleterious effects of sepsis in female rats. We do not know if this is the case for male rodents. In this case, the efficiency of other n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) remains to be determined in both female and male rats. This study aimed at (i) determining whether dietary EPA is cardioprotective in septic male rats; (ii) evaluating the influence of dietary α-linolenic (C18:3 n-3 or ALA) on cardiac function during this pathology; and (iii) finding out the physiological and molecular mechanisms responsible for the observed effects. Sixty male rats were divided into three dietary groups. The animals were fed a diet deficient in n-3 PUFAs (DEF group), a diet enriched with ALA (ALA group) or a diet fortified with EPA (EPA group) for 6 weeks. Thereafter, each group was subdivided into 2 subgroups, one being subjected to cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) and the other undergoing a fictive surgery. Cardiac function was determined in vivo and ex vivo. Several parameters related to the inflammation process and oxidative stress were determined. Finally, the fatty acid compositions of circulating lipids and cardiac phospholipids were evaluated. The results of the ex vivo situation indicated that sepsis triggered cardiac damage in the DEF group. Conversely, the ex vivo data indicated that dietary ALA and EPA were cardioprotective by resolving the inflammation process and decreasing the oxidative stress. However, the measurements of the cardiac function in the in vivo situation modulated these conclusions. Indeed, in the in vivo situation, sepsis deteriorated cardiac mechanical activity in the ALA group. This was suspected to be due to a restricted coronary flow which was related to a lack of cyclooxygenase substrates in membrane phospholipids. Finally, only EPA proved to be beneficial in sepsis. Its action necessitates both resolution of inflammation and increased coronary perfusion. In that sense, dietary ALA, which does not allow the accumulation of vasodilator precursors in membrane lipids, cannot be protective during the pathology.
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