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Annu Rev Nutr. 2001;21:23-46.

Fat metabolism in insects.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and Center for Insect Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA. lcanavoso@email.arizona.edu

Abstract

The study of fat metabolism in insects has received considerable attention over the years. Although by no means complete, there is a growing body of information about dietary lipid requirements, and the absolute requirement for sterol is of particular note. In this review we (a) summarize the state of understanding of the dietary requirements for the major lipids and (b) describe in detail the insect lipid transport system. Insects digest and absorb lipids similarly to vertebrates, but with some important differences. The hallmark of fat metabolism in insects centers on the lipid transport system. The major lipid transported is diacylglycerol, and it is carried by a high-density lipoprotein called lipophorin. Lipophorin is a reusable shuttle that picks up lipid from the gut and delivers it to tissues for storage or utilization without using the endocytic processes common to vertebrate cells. The mechanisms by which this occurs are not completely understood and offer fruitful areas for future research.

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