Assessment of lipid uptake and fatty acid metabolism of European eel larvae (Anguilla anguilla) determined by 14C in vivo incubation

Ivar Lund*, Diana B. Reis, Jonna Tomkiewicz, Elisa Benini, José A. Pérez, Johanna S. Kottmann, Sebastian N. Politis, Covadonga Rodríguez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Knowledge on dietary nutrient requirements of first-feeding European eel larvae (Anguilla anguilla) is very limited. This study provides first ever information on in vivo lipid uptake and fatty acid (FA) metabolism of European pre-leptocephalus eel larvae and advances directions for dietary lipid and FA inclusions. The in vivo capability of eel larvae to incorporate and metabolize unsaturated fatty acids was tested on larvae at different ontogenetic stages (4, 8 and 12 days post hatch, DPH). Larvae were incubated in 10 mL flat-bottom tissue culture plates, with [1-14C]-labelled FA (18:2n-6, ALA; 18:3n-3, LA; 20:4n-6, ARA and 20:5n-3, EPA) directly added to seawater. The capability of the larvae for de-acylation and re-acylation of [1-14C]arachidonic acid (ARA), initially bound to phosphatidylcholine (PC) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), was also investigated. In all cases, control incubations without any radiolabelled substrate were performed for further lipid analysis. The results revealed that direct incubation with 14C-labelled FA is a feasible method to investigate in vivo FA and phospholipids metabolism of pre-leptocephalus stages of the European eel. No enzymatic elongation/desaturation activity towards [1-14C]C18 or [1-14C]C20 FA was detected. Consequently, ARA, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) must be considered essential FA and thus provided firstly through female broodstock and later through diet at least during the first-feeding stage. Pre-leptocephalus larvae display a high capacity to remodel dietary phospholipids with a preferential esterification of all FA substrates into PC. The unexpectedly high esterification rate of [1-14C] ARA into PC and PE is supported by the individual FA profiles of the larval phospholipids. The high levels of ARA present in the European eel larvae denotes its physiological relevance for this species. It is therefore essential to consider this FA as particularly important when designing suitable broodstock – or first-feeding diets for this species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number735858
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • European eel larvae
  • PUFA metabolism
  • Phospholipids
  • Radiolabelled substrates
  • Arachidonic acid


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessment of lipid uptake and fatty acid metabolism of European eel larvae (Anguilla anguilla) determined by 14C in vivo incubation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this