Naturally Segregating Variation at Ugt86Dd Contributes to Nicotine Resistance in Drosophila melanogaster

Genetics. 2017 Sep;207(1):311-325. doi: 10.1534/genetics.117.300058. Epub 2017 Jul 25.


Identifying the sequence polymorphisms underlying complex trait variation is a key goal of genetics research, since knowing the precise causative molecular events allows insight into the pathways governing trait variation. Genetic analysis of complex traits in model systems regularly starts by constructing QTL maps, but generally fails to identify causative sequence polymorphisms. Previously we mapped a series of QTL contributing to resistance to nicotine in a Drosophila melanogaster multiparental mapping resource and here use a battery of functional tests to resolve QTL to the molecular level. One large-effect QTL resided over a cluster of UDP-glucuronosyltransferases, and quantitative complementation tests using deficiencies eliminating subsets of these detoxification genes revealed allelic variation impacting resistance. RNAseq showed that Ugt86Dd had significantly higher expression in genotypes that are more resistant to nicotine, and anterior midgut-specific RNA interference (RNAi) of this gene reduced resistance. We discovered a segregating 22-bp frameshift deletion in Ugt86Dd, and accounting for the InDel during mapping largely eliminates the QTL, implying the event explains the bulk of the effect of the mapped locus. CRISPR/Cas9 editing of a relatively resistant genotype to generate lesions in Ugt86Dd that recapitulate the naturally occurring putative loss-of-function allele, leads to a large reduction in resistance. Despite this major effect of the deletion, the allele appears to be very rare in wild-caught populations and likely explains only a small fraction of the natural variation for the trait. Nonetheless, this putatively causative coding InDel can be a launchpad for future mechanistic exploration of xenobiotic detoxification.

Keywords: CRISPR; QTL mapping; RNAi; functional validation; xenobiotics.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / drug effects
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance / genetics*
  • Frameshift Mutation
  • INDEL Mutation
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Loss of Function Mutation
  • Nicotine / toxicity*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nicotine