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PhD defense: Mélisandre TEFIT

Drosophila melanogaster and its bacterial partners: Community dynamics and effects on animal physiology
When Dec 16, 2016
from 02:00 to 04:00
Where Salle des Thèses CRC
Attendees Jury:
Dr. Vincent Mirouse – Directeur de Recherche, GreD (Clermont-Ferrand)
Dr. Muriel Grammont – Chargée de Recherche, LBMC (Lyon)
Dr. Abderrahman Khila – Directeur de Recherche, IGFL (Lyon)
Dr. Carlos Ribeiro – Professeur, Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (Lisbonne, Portugal)
Dr. François Leulier – Directeur de Recherche, IGFL (Lyon)
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In nature, symbiotic relationships are widespread, and of paramount ecological importance. Animals have appeared, evolved, and are now living constantly associated with a variety of microorganisms. In the spectrum of different symbioses types, the microbiota occupies a central and balanced part by establishing commensalistic or mutualistic relationships with its host. Over the last years, the microbiota has been extensively studied given the crucial role it plays in animal health and disease. In this research effort, Drosophila melanogaster represents a fruitful model, thanks to the ease to generate and maintain axenic flies, and the simplicity of re-associating them with a defined microbial community.

The association of Drosophila with one of its natural commensals, Lactobacillus plantarum, revealed a growth-promoting effect mediated by this bacterial species. In case of nutrient scarcity, larvae associated with L. plantarum develop twice faster than the germ-free ones. However, adjusting development to environmental cues is key to organismal fitness, and yet here animals are growing fast even though the nutritional conditions are poor. We thus questioned whether what seems like an advantage could in turn be deleterious at later stages, and adversely impact adult fitness. We showed that L. plantarum is a true beneficial partner for D. melanogaster throughout the fly life cycle. Indeed, it allows the precocious emergence of mature and fertile adults without fitness drawbacks, and in certain conditions, this commensal can even increase the lifespan of nutritionally challenged males.

Broader studies assessing the interaction of Drosophila with several bacterial species can inform about the dynamics of a fly microbiota. Indeed, in the environmental niche bacteria are transferred between the fly and its nutritive substrate, and these reciprocal transfers could alter the composition of the community. We addressed this question using a wild-derived microbial community and observed a high degree of similarity between the bacteria associated with the flies and the composition of the community in the diet, illustrating the stable association of the Drosophila microbiota with the fly population in the niche.

Altogether these results emphasize the power of the Drosophila model in the study of the relationships between animals and their microbiota, which allows deciphering the dynamics of commensal bacterial communities and their impact on animal physiology.