Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids allocate somatic and germline lipids to ensure fitness during nutrient and oxidative stress in Caenorhabditis elegans

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Dec 15;112(50):15378-83. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1514012112. Epub 2015 Nov 30.


Animals in nature are continually challenged by periods of feast and famine as resources inevitably fluctuate, and must allocate somatic reserves for reproduction to abate evolutionary pressures. We identify an age-dependent lipid homeostasis pathway in Caenorhabditis elegans that regulates the mobilization of lipids from the soma to the germline, which supports fecundity but at the cost of survival in nutrient-poor and oxidative stress environments. This trade-off is responsive to the levels of dietary carbohydrates and organismal oleic acid and is coupled to activation of the cytoprotective transcription factor SKN-1 in both laboratory-derived and natural isolates of C. elegans. The homeostatic balance of lipid stores between the somatic and germ cells is mediated by arachidonic acid (omega-6) and eicosapentaenoic acid (omega-3) precursors of eicosanoid signaling molecules. Our results describe a mechanism for resource reallocation within intact animals that influences reproductive fitness at the cost of somatic resilience.

Keywords: germline; lipids; soma; survival; trade-off.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / drug effects
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / pharmacology*
  • Food*
  • Germ Cells / drug effects
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Oleic Acid / deficiency
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Survival Analysis
  • Vitellogenesis / drug effects


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Oleic Acid