Fine-scale mapping of natural variation in fly fecundity identifies neuronal domain of expression and function of an aquaporin

PLoS Genet. 2012;8(4):e1002631. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002631. Epub 2012 Apr 5.


To gain insight into the molecular genetic basis of standing variation in fitness related traits, we identify a novel factor that regulates the molecular and physiological basis of natural variation in female Drosophila melanogaster fecundity. Genetic variation in female fecundity in flies derived from a wild orchard population is heritable and largely independent of other measured life history traits. We map a portion of this variation to a single QTL and then use deficiency mapping to further refine this QTL to 5 candidate genes. Ubiquitous expression of RNAi against only one of these genes, an aquaporin encoded by Drip, reduces fecundity. Within our mapping population Drip mRNA level in the head, but not other tissues, is positively correlated with fecundity. We localize Drip expression to a small population of corazonin producing neurons located in the dorsolateral posterior compartments of the protocerebrum. Expression of Drip-RNAi using both the pan-neuronal ELAV-Gal4 and the Crz-Gal4 drivers reduces fecundity. Low-fecundity RILs have decreased Crz expression and increased expression of pale, the enzyme encoding the rate-limiting step in the production of dopamine, a modulator of insect life histories. Taken together these data suggest that natural variation in Drip expression in the corazonin producing neurons contributes to standing variation in fitness by altering the concentration of two neurohormones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquaporins / genetics*
  • Aquaporins / metabolism
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster* / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster* / physiology
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Fitness* / genetics
  • Neurons* / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / genetics
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Aquaporins
  • Crz protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • GAL4 protein, Drosophila
  • Neuropeptides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors