The expression and regulation of lipid transport proteins in the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria

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Schistocerca gregaria

Lipids play a central role in insects, both for storage of nutrients and as an energy source during development and dispersal. Due to their low water solubility, special transport mechanisms are required for their efficient mobilization and utilization. In this thesis, I studied intra- and extracellular proteins involved in lipid transport in the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria. Vitellogenins are very high-density lipoproteins produced by adult females and deposited into the developing eggs. Two different vitellogenins, named VG-A and VG-B, are expressed in locust fat body. Their complete cDNA transcripts of ~5.6 kb each have been sequenced, coding for two proteins of ~200 kDa each. VG-A and VG-B are co-expressed in similar amounts by mature females, commencing 11 days after adult eclosion, and continuing at high levels throughout the entire adult life. The expression of both proteins is dependent on the nuclear transcription factors Met or RXR, and knockdown of each of these proteins almost completely eliminates VG expression. A similar expression profile was observed in adult muscle for the cytosolic fatty acid binding protein FABP, albeit in both sexes. The direct knockdown of the strongly expressed FABP by RNA inference reduced its levels to less than 2% of what is normally found 3 weeks after adult eclosion. In a series of flight experiments, it was demonstrated that in the absence of FABP, insects are incapable of engaging in flight longer than 30 min; at this time, most carbohydrate resources have been depleted, and locusts normally switch to lipids as the sole fuel for muscle energy production. Short-term flight performance of FABP knockdown locusts was identical to control insects, suggesting that the lack of FABP does not interfere with carbohydrate metabolism. Moreover, the mobilization of lipids in the fat body and their transport by the major hemolymph lipoprotein lipophorin was indistinguishable from control animals. In contrast, knockdown of apolipophorin III, which is essential for lipid transport during flight, completely eliminated flight capability, even for short duration flights. Taken together, this thesis highlights the essential role of lipid transport proteins for locust reproduction and dispersal and identifies potential targets for insect control strategies.

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Norbert Haunerland
Science: Biological Sciences Department
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.