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.