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The effect of diet and time after bacterial infection on fecundity, resistance, and tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster

Kutzer MA, Armitage SAO – 2016

Mounting and maintaining an effective immune response in the face of infection can be costly. The outcome of infection depends on two host immune strategies: resistance and tolerance. Resistance limits pathogen load, while tolerance reduces the fitness impact of an infection. While resistance strategies are well studied, tolerance has received less attention, but is now considered to play a vital role in host-pathogen interactions in animals. A major challenge in ecoimmunology is to understand how some hosts maintain their fitness when infected while others succumb to infection, as well as how extrinsic, environmental factors, such as diet, affect defense. We tested whether dietary restriction through yeast (protein) limitation affects resistance, tolerance, and fecundity in Drosophila melanogaster. We predicted that protein restriction would reveal costs of infection. Because infectious diseases are not always lethal, we tested resistance and tolerance using two bacteria with low lethality: Escherichia coli and Lactococcus lactis. We then assayed fecundity and characterized bacterial infection pathology in individual flies at two acute phase time points after infection. As expected, our four fecundity measures all showed a negative effect of a low-protein diet, but contrary to predictions, diet did not affect resistance to either bacteria species. We found evidence for diet-induced and time-dependent variation in host tolerance to E. coli, but not to L. lactis. Furthermore, the two bacteria species exhibited remarkably different infection profiles, and persisted within the flies for at least 7 days postinfection. Our results show that acute phase infections do not necessarily lead to fecundity costs despite high bacterial loads. The influence of intrinsic variables such as genotype are the prevailing factors that have been studied in relation to variation in host tolerance, but here we show that extrinsic factors should also be considered for their role in influencing tolerance strategies.

The effect of diet and time after bacterial infection on fecundity, resistance, and tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster
Kutzer MA, Armitage SAO
Blackwell Pub. Ltd.
Dietary manipulation; life history responses; persistent infections; plasticity
doi: 10.1002/ece3.2185
Appeared in
Ecology and Evolution, 6(13): 4229-42