Metabolite exchange between microbiome members produces compounds that influence Drosophila behavior

Elife. 2017 Jan 9;6:e18855. doi: 10.7554/eLife.18855.


Animals host multi-species microbial communities (microbiomes) whose properties may result from inter-species interactions; however, current understanding of host-microbiome interactions derives mostly from studies in which elucidation of microbe-microbe interactions is difficult. In exploring how Drosophila melanogaster acquires its microbiome, we found that a microbial community influences Drosophila olfactory and egg-laying behaviors differently than individual members. Drosophila prefers a Saccharomyces-Acetobacter co-culture to the same microorganisms grown individually and then mixed, a response mainly due to the conserved olfactory receptor, Or42b. Acetobacter metabolism of Saccharomyces-derived ethanol was necessary, and acetate and its metabolic derivatives were sufficient, for co-culture preference. Preference correlated with three emergent co-culture properties: ethanol catabolism, a distinct volatile profile, and yeast population decline. Egg-laying preference provided a context-dependent fitness benefit to larvae. We describe a molecular mechanism by which a microbial community affects animal behavior. Our results support a model whereby emergent metabolites signal a beneficial multispecies microbiome.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; S. cerevisiae; ecology; host-microbe interactions; infectious disease; metabolism; microbe-microbe interactions; microbiology; microbiota; olfaction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / metabolism
  • Acetobacter / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / drug effects*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Microbiota*
  • Saccharomyces / metabolism*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / metabolism


  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Ethanol
  • Acetic Acid