The ecology of the Drosophila-yeast mutualism in wineries

PLoS One. 2018 May 16;13(5):e0196440. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196440. eCollection 2018.


The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is preferentially found on fermenting fruits. The yeasts that dominate the microbial communities of these substrates are the primary food source for developing D. melanogaster larvae, and adult flies manifest a strong olfactory system-mediated attraction for the volatile compounds produced by these yeasts during fermentation. Although most work on this interaction has focused on the standard laboratory yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a wide variety of other yeasts naturally ferment fallen fruit. Here we address the open question of whether D. melanogaster preferentially associates with distinct yeasts in different, closely-related environments. We characterized the spatial and temporal dynamics of Drosophila-associated fungi in Northern California wineries that use organic grapes and natural fermentation using high-throughput, short-amplicon sequencing. We found that there is nonrandom structure in the fungal communities that are vectored by flies both between and within vineyards. Within wineries, the fungal communities associated with flies in cellars, fermentation tanks, and pomace piles are distinguished by varying abundances of a small number of yeast species. To investigate the origins of this structure, we assayed Drosophila attraction to, oviposition on, larval development in, and longevity when consuming the yeasts that distinguish vineyard microhabitats from each other. We found that wild fly lines did not respond differentially to the yeast species that distinguish winery habitats in habitat specific manner. Instead, this subset of yeast shares traits that make them attractive to and ensure their close association with Drosophila.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology*
  • Ecosystem
  • Female
  • Fermentation
  • Fruit / microbiology
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / microbiology
  • Male
  • Mycobiome / genetics
  • Mycobiome / physiology
  • Organic Agriculture
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology
  • Symbiosis / genetics
  • Symbiosis / physiology*
  • Vitis / microbiology*
  • Wine / microbiology*
  • Yeasts / genetics
  • Yeasts / isolation & purification
  • Yeasts / physiology*

Grants and funding

This research was supported by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Award (MBE) and the National Science Graduate Research Fellowship (ASQ). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.