C elegans: a model for exploring the genetics of fat storage

Dev Cell. 2003 Jan;4(1):131-42. doi: 10.1016/s1534-5807(02)00411-2.


To gain insights into the genetic cascades that regulate fat biology, we evaluated C. elegans as an appropriate model organism. We generated worms that lack two transcription factors, SREBP and C/EBP, crucial for formation of mammalian fat. Worms deficient in either of these genes displayed a lipid-depleted phenotype-pale, skinny, larval-arrested worms that lack fat stores. On the basis of this phenotype, we used a reverse genetic screen to identify several additional genes that play a role in worm lipid storage. Two of the genes encode components of the mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC). When the MRC was inhibited chemically in worms or in a mammalian adipocyte model, fat accumulation was markedly reduced. A third encodes lpd-3, whose homolog is also required for fat storage in a mammalian model. These data suggest that C. elegans is a genetically tractable model to study the mechanisms that underlie the biology of fat-storing tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Eating
  • Electron Transport / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Helminth / genetics
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Animal*
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Starvation / metabolism
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1
  • Transcription Factors*


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SREBF1 protein, human
  • Srebf1 protein, mouse
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1
  • Transcription Factors
  • lpd-3 protein, C elegans