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J Exp Biol. 2007 Mar;210(Pt 6):956-63.

The role of larval fat cells in adult Drosophila melanogaster.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89154, USA.


In the life history of holometabolous insects, distinct developmental stages are tightly linked to feeding and non-feeding periods. The larval stage is characterized by extensive feeding, which supports the rapid growth of the animal and allows accumulation of energy stores, primarily in the larval fat body. In Drosophila melanogaster access to these stores during pupal development is possible because the larval fat body is preserved in the pupa as individual fat cells. These larval fat cells are refractive to autophagic cell death that removes most of the larval cells during metamorphosis. The larval fat cells are thought to persist into the adult stage and thus might also have a nutritional role in the young adult. We used cell markers to demonstrate that the fat cells in the young adult are in fact dissociated larval fat body cells, and we present evidence that these cells are eventually removed in the adult by a caspase cascade that leads to cell death. By genetically manipulating the lifespan of the larval fat cells, we demonstrate that these cells are nutritionally important during the early, non-feeding stage of adulthood. We experimentally blocked cell death of larval fat cells using the GAL4/UAS system and found that in newly eclosed adults starvation resistance increased from 58 h to 72 h. Starvation survival was highly correlated with the number of remaining larval fat cells. We discuss the implications of these results in terms of the overall nutritional status of the larva as an important factor in adult survival in environmental stresses such as starvation.

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