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J Insect Physiol. 2013 Jun;59(6):631-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 Apr 16.

Fatty acid modifications during autumnal cold-hardening in an obligatory ectoparasite, the deer ked (Lipoptena cervi).

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University of Eastern Finland, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Institute of Biomedicine/Anatomy, P.O. Box 1627, FI-70211 Kuopio, Finland.


Poikilothermic organisms often modify their tissue fatty acids (FA) in response to cold exposure by increased unsaturation. In insects, this has been found to be accompanied by increases in the activities or mRNA expression of desaturase enzymes. In the present study, the FA composition of an obligatory ectoparasite, the deer ked (Lipoptena cervi), was analyzed in August-November. In addition to studying the general FA profile of the species, the possible contribution of FA to autumnal cold-hardening was examined. The FA composition of the deer ked imago was relatively similar to previously studied dipteran species, with high percentages of monounsaturated FA (especially 18:1n-9 and 16:1n-7) and 16:0. The individuals caught later in autumn had significantly higher values for the ratio of unsaturated to saturated FA and, regarding individual FA, the percentages of 18:1n-9, 18:2n-6, 18:3n-3, 20:4n-6 and 22:6n-3 were higher but those of 16:0 and 16:1n-7 lower than in August. Potential selective use of particular FA for energy could not account for the large increase in the levels of polyunsaturated FA (PUFA). The observed increased degree of FA unsaturation may have resulted from cold-induced desaturation, as observed previously in other species, or increased survival of the keds with relatively large PUFA contents. The PUFA with low melting points probably allow lipid membranes to maintain sufficient fluidity required to maintain protein functions at low ambient temperatures.

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