The metabolic and health-promoting effects of dietary restriction (DR) have been extensively studied in several species. The response to DR with respect to sex is essentially unknown. To address this question, we used the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to analyze body composition and gene expression in males and hermaphrodites in response to DR. Unexpectedly, DR increased the fat-to-fat-free mass ratio and enlarged lipid droplets in both sexes to a similar extent. These effects were linked to a downregulation of the lipase-like 5 (lipl-5) gene in both sexes at two developmental stages. By contrast, the reductions in body size, protein content, and total RNA content in response to DR were more pronounced in hermaphrodites than in males. Functional enrichment analysis of gene expression data showed a DR-induced downregulation of several embryogenesis-associated genes concomitant with an ongoing expression of sperm-associated genes in hermaphrodites. In conclusion, DR increases fat stores in both sexes of C. elegans in the form of large and possibly lipolysis-resistant lipid droplets and markedly alters the reproductive program in hermaphrodites but not in males.
Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; dietary restriction; fat metabolism; gene expression; sex differences.