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The present study aimed at analysis of the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), linoleic acid (LA, C18:2n - 6) and linolenic acid (LNA, C18:3n - 3) on bovine peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in vitro. Both mitogen (ConA)-induced proliferative lymphocyte responsiveness during 4 days of culture and eicosanoid (prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) and leukotriene B(4) (LTB(4))) production during 36 h were determined in relation to the absence or presence of various concentrations of LA and LNA (0, 1, 5, 25, 125 and 250 microM). Mitogen-driven proliferative responses of lymphocytes tended to be uninfluenced in the presence of lower concentrations of LA, whereas significant inhibition was observed at the higher concentrations of LA (125 and 250 microM). However, increasing amounts of LNA did not affect the proliferation. ConA stimulation induced a clear PGE(2) response, which significantly decreased in the presence of 250 microM of LA. In addition, increasing amounts of LNA, but not LA, led to a significant decrease in LTB(4) levels. However, The production of LTB(4) did not alter due to mitogenic stimulation. In conclusion, the present study shows that bovine mononuclear cells may functionally be influenced by the presence of PUFA in their environment. Further studies need to be conducted to clarify in vivo consequences of these findings in a situation of PUFA enriched rations in ruminants.