Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Octopamine connects nutrient cues to lipid metabolism upon nutrient deprivation

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Science Advances  06 May 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 5, e1501372
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501372


Starvation is probably the most common stressful situation in nature. In vertebrates, elevation of the biogenic amine norepinephrine levels is common during starvation. However, the precise role of norepinephrine in nutrient deprivation remains largely unknown. We report that in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, up-regulation of the biosynthesis of octopamine, the invertebrate counterpart of norepinephrine, serves as a mechanism to adapt to starvation. During nutrient deprivation, the nuclear receptor DAF-12, known to sense nutritional cues, up-regulates the expression of tbh-1 that encodes tyramine β-hydroxylase, a key enzyme for octopamine biosynthesis, in the RIC neurons. Octopamine induces the expression of the lipase gene lips-6 via its receptor SER-3 in the intestine. LIPS-6, in turn, elicits lipid mobilization. Our findings reveal that octopamine acts as an endocrine regulator linking nutrient cues to lipolysis to maintain energy homeostasis, and suggest that such a mechanism may be evolutionally conserved in diverse organisms.

  • Octopamine
  • C. elegans
  • DAF-12
  • lipid hydrolysis
  • starvation

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