Lessons from "lower" organisms: what worms, flies, and zebrafish can teach us about human energy metabolism

PLoS Genet. 2007 Nov;3(11):e199. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030199.


A pandemic of metabolic diseases (atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and obesity), unleashed by multiple social and economic factors beyond the control of most individuals, threatens to diminish human life span for the first time in the modern era. Given the redundancy and inherent complexity of processes regulating the uptake, transport, catabolism, and synthesis of nutrients, magic bullets to target these diseases will be hard to find. Recent studies using the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, the fly Drosophila melanogaster, and the zebrafish Danio rerio indicate that these "lower" metazoans possess unique attributes that should help in identifying, investigating, and even validating new pharmaceutical targets for these diseases. We summarize findings in these organisms that shed light on highly conserved pathways of energy homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diptera / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Fat Body / metabolism
  • Helminths / metabolism*
  • Helminths / physiology
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*