Background: The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is a well-established model organism for probing the molecular and cellular basis of physiological and immune system responses of adults or late stage larvae to bacterial challenge. However, very little is known about the consequences of bacterial infections that occur in earlier stages of development. We have infected mid-second instar larvae with strains of Pseudomonas fluorescens to determine how infection alters the ability of larvae to survive and complete development.
Methodology/principal findings: We mimicked natural routes of infection using a non-invasive feeding procedure to study the toxicity of the three sequenced P. fluorescens strains (Pf0-1, SBW25, and Pf-5) to Drosophila melanogaster. Larvae fed with the three strains of P. fluorescens showed distinct differences in developmental trajectory and survival. Treatment with SBW25 caused a subset of insects to die concomitant with a systemic melanization reaction at larval, pupal or adult stages. Larvae fed with Pf-5 died in a dose-dependent manner with adult survivors showing eye and wing morphological defects. In addition, larvae in the Pf-5 treatment groups showed a dose-dependent delay in the onset of metamorphosis relative to control-, Pf0-1-, and SBW25-treated larvae. A functional gacA gene is required for the toxic properties of wild-type Pf-5 bacteria.
Conclusions/significance: These experiments are the first to demonstrate that ingestion of P. fluorescens bacteria by D. melanogaster larvae causes both lethal and non-lethal phenotypes, including delay in the onset of metamorphosis and morphological defects in surviving adult flies, which can be decoupled.