Biology Publications

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Summer 2019


Journal of Insect Physiology



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A healthy gut microbiota generally improves the performance of its insect host. Although the effects can be specific to the species composition of the microbial community, the role of gut microbiota in determining water balance has not been well explored. We used axenic and gnotobiotic (reared with a known microbiota) Drosophila melanogaster to test three hypotheses about the effects of gut yeasts on the water balance of adult flies: 1) that gut yeasts would improve desiccation survival in adult flies; 2) that larval yeasts would improve adult desiccation survival; 3) that the effects would be species-specific, such that yeasts closely associated with D. melanogaster in nature are more likely to be beneficial than those rarely found in association with D. melanogaster. We used Saccharomyces cerevisiae (often used in Drosophila cultures, but rarely associated with D. melanogaster in nature), Lachancea kluyveri (associated with some species of Drosophila, but not D. melanogaster), and Pichia kluyveri (associated with D. melanogaster in nature). Adult inoculation with yeasts had no effect on survival of desiccating conditions. Inoculation with P. kluyveri as larvae did not change desiccation survival in adults; however, rearing with L. kluyveri or S. cerevisiae reduced adult desiccation survival. We conclude that adult inoculation with gut yeasts has no impact on desiccation survival, but that rearing with yeasts can have either no or detrimental effect. The effects appear to be species-specific: P. kluyveri did not have a negative impact on desiccation tolerance, suggesting some level of co-adaptation with D. melanogaster. We note that S. cerevisiae may not be an appropriate species for studying the effects of gut yeasts on D. melanogaster.


This is an author-accepted manuscript. Final published version by Elsevier can be accessed at

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