Characterization of termite lipophorin and its involvement in hydrocarbon transport. Academic Article uri icon


  • The transport of lipids constitutes a vital function in insects and requires the plasma lipoprotein lipophorin. In all insects examined to date, cuticular hydrocarbons are also transported through the hemolymph by lipophorin, and in social insects they play important roles not only in water proofing the cuticle but also in nestmate recognition. High-density lipophorin (HDLp), isolated from Reticulitermes flavipes plasma by KBr gradient ultracentrifugation, contains 66.2% protein and 33.8% lipids; hydrocarbons constitute its major neutral lipid (20.4% of total lipids). Anti-lipophorin serum was generated in rabbit and its specific association with lipophorin, and not with any other plasma proteins, was verified with Western blotting. Immunoprecipitation also confirmed that this antibody specifically recognizes lipophorin, because all hemolymph hydrocarbons of the termites R. flavipes and R. lucifugus and the cockroach Supella longipalpa, which associate only with lipophorin, were recovered in the immunoprecipitated protein. Cross-reactivity of the antiserum with lipophorin from related species was investigated by double immunodiffusion with 10 termite species in the genera Reticulitermes, Coptotermes, Zootermopsis, and Kalotermes, and with five cockroach species. Involvement of lipophorin in hydrocarbon transport was shown by injecting HDLp antiserum into Zootermopsis nevadensis and then monitoring the de novo biosynthesis of hydrocarbons and their transport to the cuticular surface; the antiserum significantly disrupted hydrocarbon transport. ELISA revealed a gradual increase in the lipophorin titer in successively larger R. flavipes workers, and differences among castes in lipophorin titers were highest between nymphs and first instar larvae.

published proceedings

  • J Insect Physiol

author list (cited authors)

  • Fan, Y., Schal, C., Vargo, E. L., & Bagnres, A.

citation count

  • 31

complete list of authors

  • Fan, Yongliang||Schal, Coby||Vargo, Edward L||Bagnères, Anne-Geneviève

publication date

  • January 1, 2004 11:11 AM