Background: Animals are chronically infected by benign and beneficial microorganisms that generally promote animal health through their effects on the nutrition, immune function and other physiological systems of the host. Insight into the host-microbial interactions can be obtained by comparing the traits of animals experimentally deprived of their microbiota and untreated animals. Drosophila melanogaster is an experimentally tractable system to study host-microbial interactions.
Methodology/principal findings: The nutritional significance of the microbiota was investigated in D. melanogaster bearing unmanipulated microbiota, demonstrated by 454 sequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons to be dominated by the α-proteobacterium Acetobacter, and experimentally deprived of the microbiota by egg dechorionation (conventional and axenic flies, respectively). In axenic flies, larval development rate was depressed with no effect on adult size relative to conventional flies, indicating that the microbiota promotes larval growth rates. Female fecundity did not differ significantly between conventional and axenic flies, but axenic flies had significantly reduced metabolic rate and altered carbohydrate allocation, including elevated glucose levels.
Conclusions/significance: We have shown that elimination of the resident microbiota extends larval development and perturbs energy homeostasis and carbohydrate allocation patterns of of D. melanogaster. Our results indicate that the resident microbiota promotes host nutrition and interacts with the regulation of host metabolism.