Dietary lipids impact development, homeostasis, and disease, but links between specific dietary fats and cell fates are poorly understood. Ferroptosis is an iron-dependent form of nonapoptotic cell death associated with oxidized polyunsaturated phospholipids. Here, we show that dietary ingestion of the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) dihomogamma-linolenic acid (DGLA; 20:3n-6) can trigger germ-cell ferroptosis and sterility in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
Exogenous DGLA is also sufficient to induce ferroptosis in human cells, pinpointing this omega-6 PUFA as a conserved metabolic instigator of this lethal process. In both C. elegans and human cancer cells, ether-lipid synthesis protects against ferroptosis. These results establish C. elegans as a powerful animal model to study the induction and modulation of ferroptosis by dietary fats and indicate that endogenous ether lipids act to prevent this nonapoptotic cell fate.