trans-Fatty acids (TFAs) are unsaturated fatty acids that contain one or more carbon-carbon double bonds in trans configuration. Epidemiological evidence has linked TFA consumption with various disorders, including cardiovascular diseases. However, the underlying pathological mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we show a novel toxic mechanism of TFAs triggered by DNA damage. We found that elaidic acid (EA) and linoelaidic acid, major TFAs produced during industrial food manufacturing (so-called as industrial TFAs), but not their corresponding cis isomers, facilitated apoptosis induced by doxorubicin. Consistently, EA enhanced UV-induced embryonic lethality in C. elegans worms. The pro-apoptotic action of EA was blocked by knocking down Sab, a c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-interacting protein localizing at mitochondrial outer membrane, which mediates mutual amplification of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and JNK activation. EA enhanced doxorubicin-induced mitochondrial ROS generation and JNK activation, both of which were suppressed by Sab knockdown and pharmacological inhibition of either mitochondrial ROS generation, JNK, or Src-homology 2 domain-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase 1 (SHP1) as a Sab-associated protein. These results demonstrate that in response to DNA damage, TFAs drive the mitochondrial JNK-Sab-ROS positive feedback loop and ultimately apoptosis, which may provide insight into the common pathogenetic mechanisms of diverse TFA-related disorders.
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