Rearing Temperature and Fatty Acid Supplementation Jointly Affect Lipid Fluorescence Polarization and Heat Tolerance in Daphnia

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The homeoviscous adaptation hypothesis states that the relative abundance of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in membrane phospholipids of ectothermic organisms decreases with increasing temperatures to maintainvital membrane properties. We reared Daphnia magna at 15°, 20°, and 25°C and increasing dietary concentrations of the long-chain PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to test the hypothesis that the well-documented increase in heat tolerance of high-temperature-reared Daphnia is due to a reduction in body PUFA concentrations. Heat tolerance was assessed by measuring the time to immobility at a lethally high temperature (Timm at 37°C), and whole body lipid fluorescence polarization (FP) was used as an estimate of membrane fluidity. At all rearing temperatures, EPA supplementation resulted in an increase in the relative abundance of EPA in body tissues, but only at 15° and 25°C did this result in a decrease in heat tolerance, and only at 20°C was this associated with an increase in membrane fluidity (i.e., decrease in FP). Overall, however, the degree of tissue fatty acid unsaturation correlated well with heat tolerance and FP. Our results support the homeoviscous adaptation hypothesis by showing that cold-reared Daphnia accumulate PUFAs within their body tissues and thus are more susceptible to heat than hot-reared Daphnia accumulating fewer PUFAs. However, our data also point out that further studies are required that elucidate the complex relationships between PUFA supply, membrane fluidity, and heat tolerance in ectotherms.