Dietary restriction during development enlarges intestinal and hypodermal lipid droplets in Caenorhabditis elegans

PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e46198. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046198. Epub 2012 Nov 20.


Dietary restriction (DR) extends lifespan in man species and modulates evolutionary conserved signalling and metabolic pathways. Most of these studies were done in adult animals. Here we investigated fat phenotypes of C. elegans larvae and adults which were exposed to DR during development. This approach was named "developmental-DR" (dDR). Moderate as well as stringent dDR increased the triglyceride to protein ratio in L4 larvae and adult worms. This alteration was accompanied by a marked expansion of intestinal and hypodermal lipid droplets. In comparison to ad libitum condition, the relative proportion of fat stored in large lipid droplets (>50 µm(3)) was increased by a factor of about 5 to 6 in larvae exposed to dDR. Microarray-based expression profiling identified several dDR-regulated genes of lipolysis and lipogenesis which may contribute to the observed fat phenotypes. In conclusion, dDR increases the triglyceride to protein ratio, enlarges lipid droplets and alters the expression of genes functioning in lipid metabolism in C. elegans. These changes might be an effective adaptation to conserve fat stores in animals subjected to limiting food supply during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Size
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / anatomy & histology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genes, Helminth / genetics
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines / growth & development*
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics
  • Lipids / chemistry*
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Longevity / genetics
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Pharynx / growth & development
  • Pharynx / metabolism
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics
  • Subcutaneous Tissue / growth & development*
  • Subcutaneous Tissue / metabolism*
  • Tail
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids
  • Triglycerides

Grant support

This work was supported by a structural grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in the context of the Cluster of Excellence “Inflammation at Interfaces” at the University of Kiel and by a grant form the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF 0315681). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.