Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version

June 2006


Published in The American Naturalist 167:6 (June 2006), pp. 889–900.  Copyright 2006 by The University of Chicago. Used by permission.


Although the differential flow of metabolites through alternate pathways of intermediary metabolism is thought to be an important functional cause of life-history trade-offs, this phenomenon remains understudied. Using a radiolabeled amino acid, we quantified genetic differences in in vivo amino acid metabolism between morphs of the wing-polymorphic cricket Gryllus firmus that trade off early-age reproduction and dispersal capability. Lines selected for the flight-capable morph, which delays reproduction, oxidized a greater proportion of radiolabeled glycine and converted a greater amount into somatic lipid, mainly triglyceride (flight fuel). By contrast, lines selected for the flightless, reproductive morph converted a substantially greater proportion of glycine into ovarian protein. Compensatory interactions between amino acid and lipid metabolism make up a key aspect of specialization for dispersal versus reproduction in G. firmus: increased oxidation of amino acids by the flight-capable morph spares fatty acid for enhanced conversion into triglyceride flight fuel. By contrast, increased oxidation of fatty acid by the flightless morph spares amino acids for enhanced biosynthesis of ovarian protein. Studies of amino acid and lipid metabolism in G. firmus currently represent the most detailed analyses of genetic modifications of intermediary metabolism that underlie a functionally important life-history trade-off found in natural populations.

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