Why do many parasitoids lack adult triglyceride accumulation, despite functioning fatty acid biosynthesis machinery?

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Bertanne Visser, Cécile Le Lann, Caroline M. Nieberding, Mark Lammers, Daniel A. Hahn, Hans T. Alborn, Thomas Enriquez, Mathilde Scheifler, Jeffrey A. Harvey, Jacintha Ellers


Lipid reserves are a major energy source and play a key role in survival and reproduction. Lipid accumulation is a conserved metabolic pattern in insects, yet in most parasitoid species no adult lipid mass gain takes place, even when nutrients are consumed ad libitum. This deviating metabolic phenotype has evolved repeatedly in phylogenetically dispersed parasitoid species, and forms a conundrum as it leads to significant constraints on energy allocation toward key adult functions. Recent work on the underlying genetic and biochemical mechanisms has spurred a debate on the interpretation of results obtained using different methodologies, which is in part due to semantics. This highlights the need for a reflection of research on fat accumulation that unites new insights and terminology. In this paper, we first compile a comprehensive list of fat accumulation studies performed during the last 25 years, including 35 parasitic wasp species. Second, we clarify the distinct metabolic pathways involved in the complex process of lipogenesis and propose updated, unambiguous terminology, including ‘fatty acid biosynthesis’ and ‘lack of adult fat accumulation’. Third, we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the main methods available to measure fatty acid biosynthesis or adult fat accumulation. Most importantly, gravimetric/colorimetric and isotope labelling methods provide complementary information, provided that they are applied with appropriate controls and interpreted correctly. Last, we present avenues for future research that combine chemistry, ecology, and evolution into an integrative approach, which is what is now needed to understand the dynamics of fat accumulation in parasitoids.




Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Entomology, Life Sciences, Physiology


Fatty acids, Life histories, Lipid accumulation, Parasitic wasps


Published: 2021-08-25 08:24

Last Updated: 2022-06-22 09:24

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CC-BY Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International

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