Quantitative Genetics of Food Intake in Drosophila melanogaster

PLoS One. 2015 Sep 16;10(9):e0138129. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138129. eCollection 2015.


Food intake is an essential animal activity, regulated by neural circuits that motivate food localization, evaluate nutritional content and acceptance or rejection responses through the gustatory system, and regulate neuroendocrine feedback loops that maintain energy homeostasis. Excess food consumption in people is associated with obesity and metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. However, little is known about the genetic basis of natural variation in food consumption. To gain insights in evolutionarily conserved genetic principles that regulate food intake, we took advantage of a model system, Drosophila melanogaster, in which food intake, environmental conditions and genetic background can be controlled precisely. We quantified variation in food intake among 182 inbred, sequenced lines of the Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP). We found significant genetic variation in the mean and within-line environmental variance of food consumption and observed sexual dimorphism and genetic variation in sexual dimorphism for both food intake traits (mean and variance). We performed genome wide association (GWA) analyses for mean food intake and environmental variance of food intake (using the coefficient of environmental variation, CVE, as the metric for environmental variance) and identified molecular polymorphisms associated with both traits. Validation experiments using RNAi-knockdown confirmed 24 of 31 (77%) candidate genes affecting food intake and/or variance of food intake, and a test cross between selected DGRP lines confirmed a SNP affecting mean food intake identified in the GWA analysis. The majority of the validated candidate genes were novel with respect to feeding behavior, and many had mammalian orthologs implicated in metabolic diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Eating / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*


  • Biomarkers