Blood meal drives de novo lipogenesis in the fat body of Rhodnius prolixus

Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2021 Jun;133:103511. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2020.103511. Epub 2020 Dec 2.


In insects, lipids are stored in the fat body mainly as triacylglycerol. Lipids can be directly provided by digestion and incorporated from the hemolymph, or synthesized de novo from other substrates such as carbohydrates and amino acids. The first step in de novo lipid synthesis is catalyzed by acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), which carboxylates acetyl-CoA to form malonyl-CoA. Rhodnius prolixus is a hematophagous insect vector of Chagas disease and feeds exclusively on large and infrequent blood meals. Adult females slowly digest the blood and concomitantly accumulate lipids in the fat body. In this study, we investigated the regulation of R. prolixus ACC (RhoprACC) expression and de novo lipogenesis activity in adult females at different nutritional and metabolic conditions. A phylogenetic analysis showed that insects, similar to other arthropods and unlike vertebrate animals, have only one ACC gene. In females on the fourth day after a blood meal, RhoprACC transcript levels were similar in the anterior and posterior midgut, fat body and ovary and higher in the flight muscles. In the fat body, gene expression was higher in fasted females and decreased after a blood meal. In the posterior midgut it increased after feeding, and no variation was observed in the flight muscle. RhoprACC protein content analysis of the fat body revealed a profile similar to the gene expression, with higher protein contents before feeding and in the first two days after a blood meal. Radiolabeled acetate was used to follow de novo lipid synthesis in the fat body and it was incorporated mainly into triacylglycerol, diacylglycerol and phospholipids. This lipogenic activity was inhibited by soraphen A, an ACC inhibitor, and it varied according to the insect metabolic status. De novo lipogenesis was very low in starved females and increased during the initial days after a blood meal. The flight muscles had a very low capacity to synthesize lipids when compared to the fat body. Radiolabeled leucine was also used as a substrate for de novo lipogenesis and the same lipid classes were formed. In conclusion, our results indicate that the blood meal induces the utilization of diet-derived amino acids by de novo lipogenesis in the fat body, and that the control of this activity does not occur at the RhoprACC gene or protein expression level.

Keywords: Acetyl-CoA carboxylase; Fat body; Rhodnius prolixus; de novo lipogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase / genetics
  • Animals
  • Digestive System / metabolism
  • Fat Body / metabolism*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Insect
  • Lipogenesis* / drug effects
  • Lipogenesis* / physiology
  • Macrolides / pharmacology
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Rhodnius* / genetics
  • Rhodnius* / metabolism
  • Rhodnius* / physiology
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Macrolides
  • Triglycerides
  • soraphen A
  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase