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Drosophila melanogaster establishes stable gut-colonizing bacteria

Penelitian - A research team from the Gulbenkian Institute of Science (IGC) revealed how the bacterial community colonizes the fruit flies kept in the lab or in the wild, and which may be the impact of this colonization in nature. Understanding these mechanisms of colonization may allow microbiota manipulation in insects responsible for agriculture pests or diseases vectors.

The role of bacteria inhabiting our bodies is increasingly recognized as part of our wellbeing. It is in our intestines that the most diverse and significant bacteria community is located. It is believed that the manipulation of this microbiota can contribute to solve some diseases. However, it is necessary to understand which are the bacteria and how they colonize the intestine.

Penelitian Drosophila melanogaster establishes stable gut-colonizing bacteria

A study published in the PLoS Biology offers a new tool to study this bacteria-host interaction. It was assumed, until recently, that the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster did not have a stable bacterial community in its intestine. Gut bacteria would need to be continuously ingested with food.

A research team led by Ines Pais showed now that fruit flies have a bacterial community much more stable than it was believed. But there are differences between flies kept in the laboratory and from the wild. Laboratory flies are associated with bacteria not able to colonize the intestine. Instead, these bacteria grow in the flies' food and are constantly ingested by them.

"The fruit fly practices a kind of farming by transporting with them the bacteria that are sown in the local where the next generation will grow and feed. Doing so, the next generation of flies will obtain all the benefits related to these bacteria for their development and fertility," says Ines Pais.

The IGC team discovered a very different situation related to wild flies, which exist in nature. They showed that bacteria associated to wild flies have a much higher colonization capability. Curiously, these wild flies' bacteria are able to colonize the intestines of flies kept in the lab. By focusing in one of these bacteria, the researchers showed that a stable and continuously colonization of the intestine causes a constant transfer of bacteria to the environment, benefiting the following generation.

"This interaction is also similar to what happens when human beings use yeast to bake bread, or bacteria to make yogurt. The bacterial community in fruit flies is much smaller and simple than in mammals. Also, it is a relatively easy to produce fruit flies without any bacteria, which facilitates the study of colonization," says Luis Teixeira

"We think that there are many lessons that we can learn with the fly. Through the manipulation of their microbiota it might be possible to control these insects or their capability to transmit diseases, as for example Dengue virus and malaria parasites," says Luís Teixeira.

Journal : Inês S. Pais et al. Drosophila melanogaster establishes a species-specific mutualistic interaction with stable gut-colonizing bacteria, PLoS Biology, July 5, 2018, DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.2005710