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During avian development, lipoproteins derived from yolk lipid are assembled in the yolk sac membrane (YSM) for secretion into the embryonic circulation. To investigate how yolk polyunsaturated fatty acids, essential for the development of certain tissues, are distributed among the lipid classes of the lipoproteins, pieces of YSM were incubated in vitro with [14C]arachidonic and [14C]docosahexaenoic acids (DHA). There was a marked difference in the partitioning of these two precursors among the lipid classes of the tissue. Of the radioactivity incorporated into total lipid from [14C]-arachidonic acid during 1 h of incubation, 67.3% was esterified as phospholipid and 29.5% as triacylglycerol. In contrast, only 14.6% of the label incorporated from [14C]-DHA was esterified as phospholipid, whereas 73.2% was recovered in triacylglycerol. This pattern of differential partitioning was observed at all time points and across a 20-fold range of fatty acid concentrations. There was no evidence for conversion of the radioactive arachidonic and DHAs to other fatty acids prior to incorporation into tissue lipids. It is suggested that the selective incorporation of yolk-derived DHA into the triacylglycerol of secreted lipoproteins represents part of a mechanism for directing this polyunsaturate to particular embryonic tissues.

Original publication




Journal article


Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol

Publication Date





357 - 367


Animals, Arachidonic Acid, Chick Embryo, Docosahexaenoic Acids, Membranes, Phospholipids, Triglycerides, Yolk Sac