Metabolic and immunological responses of Drosophila melanogaster to dietary restriction and bacterial infection differ substantially between genotypes in a population

To respond to changing environmental conditions, a population may either shift toward better-adapted genotypes or adapt on an individual level. The present work aimed to quantify the relevance of these two processes by comparing the responses of defined Drosophila melanogaster populations to different stressors. To do this, we infected two homogeneous populations (isofemale lines), which differ significantly in fitness, and a synthetic heterogeneous population with a specific pathogen and/or exposed them to food restriction. Pectobacterium carotovorum was used to infect Drosophila larvae either fed standard or protein-restricted diet. In particular, the two homogeneous groups, which diverged in their fitness, showed considerable differences in all parameters assessed (survivorship, protein and lipid contents, phenol-oxidase (PO) activity, and antibacterial rate). Under fully nutritious conditions, larvae of the homogeneous population with low fitness exhibited lower survivorship and protein levels, as well as higher PO activity and antibacterial rate compared with the fitter population. A protein-restricted diet and bacterial infection provoked a decrease in survivorship, and antibacterial rate in most populations. Bacterial infection elicited an opposite response in protein and lipid content in both isofemale lines tested. Interestingly, the heterogeneous population showed a complex response pattern. The response of the heterogeneous population followed the fit genotype in terms of survival and antibacterial activity but followed the unfit genotype in terms of PO activity. In conclusion, our results show that defined genotypes exhibit highly divergent responses to varying stressors that are difficult to predict. Furthermore, the responses of heterogeneous populations do not follow a fixed pattern showing a very high degree of plasticity and differences between different genotypes.


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