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Population genomics of evolutionary response to nutritional stress in Drosophila

Titel Englisch Population genomics of evolutionary response to nutritional stress in Drosophila
Gesuchsteller/in Kawecki Tadeusz
Nummer 135116
Förderungsinstrument ProDoc
Forschungseinrichtung Département d'Ecologie et d'Evolution Faculté de Biologie et de Médecine Université de Lausanne
Hochschule Universität Lausanne - LA
Hauptdisziplin Genetik
Beginn/Ende 01.09.2011 - 31.08.2014
Bewilligter Betrag 202'789.00
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Alle Disziplinen (2)


Keywords (6)

evolution; drosophila; transcriptome; stress; gene expression; population variation

Lay Summary (Englisch)

Lay summary

Our project focuses on the genomic bases of tolerance to malnutrition. Many animal species, sadly still including humans in some regions, must live through periods of famine. The ability to survive, develop and even reproduce under such nutritional stress must have been favored by natural selection, leading to the evolution of specific adaptations improving malnutrition tolerance. While some of these adaptations can be inferred from flexible physiological responses of individual animals to malnutrition, a more direct way to study such adaptations is to which traits change genetically in populations regularly exposed to malnutrition over many generations.

We use this experimental evolution approach: we study in real time evolutionary changes in laboratory populations of fruit flies (Drosophila melongaster) exposed to chronic juvenile malnutrition for over 120 generations. In this project, we use the latest genomic technologies to study changes in the expression and sequence of genes associated with the evolution of better ability to survive and develop under nutritional stress in these files.

Adaptations to tolerate malnutrition have been proposed to be partially responsible for human vulnerability to metabolic diseases and some age-related medical problems (the "thrifty genotype hypothesis"). As responses to nutrition involve similar signaling pathways in human and flies, our research will throw light on processes that are also relevant for human health and well-being.

Direktlink auf Lay Summary Letzte Aktualisierung: 21.02.2013

Verantw. Gesuchsteller/in und weitere Gesuchstellende


Name Institut


Gruppe / Person Land
Formen der Zusammenarbeit
Prof. Marc Robinson-Rechavi, Department of Ecolgoy and Evolution, University of Lausanne Schweiz (Europa)
- vertiefter/weiterführender Austausch von Ansätzen, Methoden oder Resultaten
Dr. Keith Harshman; Centre of Integrative Genomics, University of Lausanne Schweiz (Europa)
- vertiefter/weiterführender Austausch von Ansätzen, Methoden oder Resultaten

Verbundene Projekte

Nummer Titel Start Förderungsinstrument
143939 Evolutionary adaptation to chronic malnutrition in Drosophila 01.12.2012 Projektförderung (Abt. I-III)
126393 Population Genomics 01.02.2010 ProDoc


The general aim of the proposed research is to understand the genomic basis of natural variation in tolerance to chronic nutritional stress, using Drosophila as a model system. It takes advantage of six replicate experimental Drosophila populations derived from nature and maintained for >100 generations on a nutritionally very poor larval food. Compared to six control populations of the same origin, these selected populations evolved greatly improved viability and faster development on the poor food, indicating that their gene pools became enriched in natural allelic variants that improve tolerance to larval malnutrition. The selected populations represent biological replicates of an evolutionary process and can be used as a model to study how species may respond and adapt to chronic nutritional stress over evolutionary time. Under the umbrella of the ProDoc program in Population Genomics, we are applying for funding for one PhD project. We propose to use ultra-high-throughput cDNA sequencing (mRNA-seq) to quantify gene expression of the malnutrition-tolerant (selected) populations and the control populations assayed both under standard conditions and under nutritional stress conditions; the sequencing approach will also yield information about alternative splicing variants and coding sequence polymorphisms. The data, combined with the existing knowledge about the involvements of transcripts in biological processes and pathways, will allow us to:•identify changes gene expression profiles, alternative splicing transcript variants and coding sequence polymorphisms associated with evolution of high tolerance to malnutrition;•generate hypotheses about the physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying malnutrition tolerance and associated trade-offs;•test hypotheses about the relationship between the evolutionary (genetically based) and phenotypically plastic (physiological) responses to nutritional stress;•compare the evolutionary responses to chronic malnutrition and other stress factors (acute starvation, desiccation, cold and heat shock); •possibly discover new splicing variants or coding polymorphisms.The hypotheses about candidate molecular mechanisms mediating malnutrition tolerance generated in this project will be amenable to verification with experimental approaches (targeted expression of transgenes, RNAi). Important features of animal biology have likely been shaped by evolution in response to periodic nutritional stress, and human susceptibility to some metabolic diseases has been suggested to result from adaptation of our ancestors to malnutrition. This research can thus not only lead to insights into the genomic mechanisms of an ecologically relevant adaptation, but also throw light on an important aspect of human health.