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Adaptation to Chronic Nutritional Stress Leads to Reduced Dependence on Microbiota in Drosophila melanogaster.
Numerous studies have shown that animal nutrition is tightly linked to gut microbiota, especially under nutritional stress. In Drosophila melanogaster, microbiota are known to promote juvenile growth, development, and survival on poor diets, mainly through enhanced digestion leading to changes in hormonal signaling. Here, we show that this reliance on microbiota is greatly reduced in replicated Drosophila populations that became genetically adapted to a poor larval diet in the course of over 170 generations of experimental evolution. Protein and polysaccharide digestion in these poor-diet-adapted populations became much less dependent on colonization with microbiota. This was accompanied by changes in expression levels of dFOXO transcription factor, a key regulator of cell growth and survival, and many of its targets. These evolutionary changes in the expression of dFOXO targets to a large degree mimic the response of the same genes to microbiota, suggesting that the evolutionary adaptation to poor diet acted on mechanisms that normally mediate the response to microbiota. Our study suggests that some metazoans have retained the evolutionary potential to adapt their physiology such that association with microbiota may become optional rather than essential.IMPORTANCE Animals depend on gut microbiota for various metabolic tasks, particularly under conditions of nutritional stress, a relationship usually regarded as an inherent aspect of animal physiology. Here, we use experimental evolution in fly populations to show that the degree of host dependence on microbiota can substantially and rapidly change as the host population evolves in response to poor diet. Our results suggest that, although microbiota may initially greatly facilitate coping with suboptimal diets, chronic nutritional stress experienced over multiple generations leads to evolutionary adaptation in physiology and gut digestive properties that reduces dependence on the microbiota for growth and survival. Thus, despite its ancient evolutionary history, the reliance of animal hosts on their microbial partners can be surprisingly flexible and may be relaxed by short-term evolution.
Drosophila, adaptation, dFOXO, digestion, experimental evolution, juvenile development, microbiota, nutritional stress
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