Stage-specific genotype-by-environment interactions for cold and heat hardiness in Drosophila melanogaster

Heredity (Edinb). 2019 Oct;123(4):479-491. doi: 10.1038/s41437-019-0236-9. Epub 2019 Jun 4.


Environments often vary across a life cycle, imposing fluctuating natural selection across development. Such fluctuating selection can favor different phenotypes in different life stages, but stage-specific evolutionary responses will depend on genetic variance, covariance, and their interaction across development and across environments. Thus, quantifying how genetic architecture varies with plastic responses to the environment and across development is vital to predict whether stage-specific adaptation will occur in nature. Additionally, the interaction of genetic variation and environmental plasticity (GxE) may be stage-specific, leading to a three-way interaction between genotype, environment, and development or GxDxE. To test for these patterns, we exposed larvae and adults of Drosophila melanogaster isogenic lines derived from a natural population to extreme heat and cold stress after developmental acclimation to cool (18 °C) and warm (25 °C) conditions and measured genetic variance for thermal hardiness. We detected significant GxE that was specific to larvae and adults for cold and heat hardiness (GxDxE), but no significant genetic correlation across development for either trait at either acclimation temperature. However, cross-development phenotypic correlations for acclimation responses suggest that plasticity itself may be developmentally constrained, though rigorously testing this hypothesis requires more experimentation. These results illustrate the potential for stage-specific adaptation within a complex life cycle and demonstrate the importance of measuring traits at appropriate developmental stages and environmental conditions when predicting evolutionary responses to changing climates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Climate Change
  • Cold Temperature
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Hot Temperature
  • Larva / genetics
  • Life Cycle Stages / genetics*
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics*
  • Temperature