The lipid and fatty acid composition of the muscle of the wild Japanese freshwater eel, Anguilla japonica, was analyzed between the initial and terminal stages of spawning migration to clarify the relationship between lipid physiology and maturation. Triacylglycerols were the only major component in the initial-phase eels, which contained high levels of lipids, while comparatively low triacylglycerol levels were observed in terminal-phase eels (Mariana silvers) at spawning area. Significant levels of plasmalogens were found in its phosphatidylethanolamine, different from other common fish species, which have their little levels. The major fatty acids in A. japonica depot triacylglycerols were 14:0, 16:0, 18:0, 16:1n-7, 18:1n-7, 18:1n-9, and 18:2n-6. Noticeable levels of 20:4n-6, EPA, 22:5n-3, and DHA were also found in initial-phase sample TAG at the yellow and initial silver stages. High 18:2n-6 levels in all A. japonica lipids were similar to those in other common freshwater fishes. In all A. japonica tissue phospholipids, high levels of n-6 and n-3 PUFA, such as 20:4n-6, EPA, 22:5n-3, and DHA, were observed except for the matured terminal female sample. High n-6 PUFA levels in terminal-phase samples caught at the spawning area suggest that A. japonica maintains and uses initial fatty acids from inland waters without feeding during long spawning migrations. The post-spawning sample, containing low levels of 20:4n-6 and DHA with unusually high levels of its degradation products (18:3n-6, 20:2n-6, and 18:4n-3), indicates that A. japonica may finally use its most important PUFA as energy for spawning before ending its life.
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