Background: Animal models are indispensable to understand the lipid metabolism and lipid metabolic diseases. Over the last decade, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has become a popular animal model for exploring the regulation of lipid metabolism, obesity, and obese-related diseases. However, the genomic and functional conservation of lipid metabolism from C. elegans to humans remains unknown. In the present study, we systematically analyzed genes involved in lipid metabolism in the C. elegans genome using comparative genomics.
Results: We built a database containing 471 lipid genes from the C. elegans genome, and then assigned most of lipid genes into 16 different lipid metabolic pathways that were integrated into a network. Over 70% of C. elegans lipid genes have human orthologs, with 237 of 471 C. elegans lipid genes being conserved in humans, mice, rats, and Drosophila, of which 71 genes are specifically related to human metabolic diseases. Moreover, RNA-mediated interference (RNAi) was used to disrupt the expression of 356 of 471 lipid genes with available RNAi clones. We found that 21 genes strongly affect fat storage, development, reproduction, and other visible phenotypes, 6 of which have not previously been implicated in the regulation of fat metabolism and other phenotypes.
Conclusions: This study provides the first systematic genomic insight into lipid metabolism in C. elegans, supporting the use of C. elegans as an increasingly prominent model in the study of metabolic diseases.