Interspecies interactions determine the impact of the gut microbiota on nutrient allocation in Drosophila melanogaster

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Jan;80(2):788-96. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02742-13. Epub 2013 Nov 15.


The animal gut is perpetually exposed to microorganisms, and this microbiota affects development, nutrient allocation, and immune homeostasis. A major challenge is to understand the contribution of individual microbial species and interactions among species in shaping these microbe-dependent traits. Using the Drosophila melanogaster gut microbiota, we tested whether microbe-dependent performance and nutritional traits of Drosophila are functionally modular, i.e., whether the impact of each microbial taxon on host traits is independent of the presence of other microbial taxa. Gnotobiotic flies were constructed with one or a set of five of the Acetobacter and Lactobacillus species which dominate the gut microbiota of conventional flies (Drosophila with untreated microbiota). Axenic (microbiota-free) flies exhibited prolonged development time and elevated glucose and triglyceride contents. The low glucose content of conventional flies was recapitulated in gnotobiotic Drosophila flies colonized with any of the 5 bacterial taxa tested. In contrast, the development rates and triglyceride levels in monocolonized flies varied depending on the taxon present: Acetobacter species supported the largest reductions, while most Lactobacillus species had no effect. Only flies with both Acetobacter and Lactobacillus had triglyceride contents restored to the level in conventional flies. This could be attributed to two processes: Lactobacillus-mediated promotion of Acetobacter abundance in the fly and a significant negative correlation between fly triglyceride content and Acetobacter abundance. We conclude that the microbial basis of host traits varies in both specificity and modularity; microbe-mediated reduction in glucose is relatively nonspecific and modular, while triglyceride content is influenced by interactions among microbes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetobacter / metabolism
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Lactobacillus / metabolism
  • Microbiota*
  • Phenotype
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*
  • Wolbachia


  • Triglycerides