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Commensal bacteria act as a broad genetic buffer in Drosophila during chronic under-nutrition

By Dali Ma, Maroun Bou-Sleiman, Pauline Joncour, Claire-Emmanuelle Indelicato, Michael Frochaux, Virginie Braman, Maria Litovchenko, Gilles Storelli, Bart Deplancke, Fran├žois Leulier

Posted 30 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/334342

Eukaryotic genomes encode several well-studied buffering mechanisms that robustly maintain invariant phenotypic outcome despite fluctuating environmental conditions. Here we show that the gut microbiota, represented by a single Drosophila facultative symbiont, Lactobacillus plantarum (LpWJL), acts also as a broad genetic buffer that masks the contribution of the cryptic genetic variations in the host under nutritional stress. During chronic under-nutrition, LpWJL consistently reduces variation in different host phenotypic traits and ensures robust organ patterning; LpWJL also decreases genotype dependent expression variation, particularly for development-associated genes. We further demonstrate that LpWJL buffers via reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling whose inhibition severely impairs microbiota-mediated phenotypic robustness. We thus identified an unexpected contribution of facultative symbionts to Drosophila fitness by assuring developmental robustness and phenotypic homogeneity in times of nutritional stress.

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