Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Do our bodies' bacteria play matchmaker?

Date:
December 3, 2010
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
Could the bacteria that we carry in our bodies decide who we marry? According to a new study, the answer lies in the gut of a small fruit fly. Scientists recently demonstrated that the symbiotic bacteria inside a fruit fly greatly influence its choice of mates.

The symbiotic bacteria inside a fruit fly greatly influence its choice of mates, new research has demonstrated.
Credit: iStockphoto/Tomasz Zachariasz

Could the bacteria that we carry in our bodies decide who we marry? According to a new study from Tel Aviv University, the answer lies in the gut of a small fruit fly.

Related Articles


Prof. Eugene Rosenberg, Prof. Daniel Segel and doctoral student Gil Sharon of Tel Aviv University's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology recently demonstrated that the symbiotic bacteria inside a fruit fly greatly influence its choice of mates.

The research was done in cooperation with Prof. John Ringo of the University of Maine, and was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Love, marriage and fruit flies

Based on a theory developed by Prof. Rosenberg and Dr. Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg, the scientists propose that the basic unit of natural selection is not the individual living organism, plant or animal, but rather a larger biological milieu called a holobiont. This milieu can include plant or animal life as well as their symbiotic partners. In the case of animals, these partners tend to be microorganisms like intestinal bacteria.

"Up to now, it was assumed that the host organism undergoes evolution on its own, while its symbiotic bacteria undergo their own evolution," Prof. Rosenberg says. "The mechanism that we discovered enables evolution to occur more rapidly in response to environmental changes. Since a generation is shorter for bacteria than for multicellular organisms, they genetically adjust more quickly to changes in the holobiont," says Prof. Rosenberg.

Conducting their experiments on the rapidly-reproducing fruit fly, the scientists were able to test this new theory. The first experiment repeated a study carried out two decades ago by a Yale University researcher, in which a fly population was divided in half and fed different diets -- malt sugar versus starch. A year later, when the flies were re-integrated as one group, those who had been fed starch preferred starch-fed mates, while the sugar-fed flies preferred mates of a similar nutritional background. The repeat experiment carried out by the Tel Aviv University researchers shows that this dietary influence takes effect within just a generation or two rather than over an entire year.

In their second experiment, the Tel Aviv University team repeated the first, but with the addition of an antibiotic, which killed the bacteria and eliminated the specific mate preference. The mating process became random, with no dietary influence.

In subsequent experiments, the researchers successfully isolated the bacterial species responsible for reproductive isolation in flies with diet-related mating preferences, and found the bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum to be present in greater numbers in starch-fed fruit flies than in sugar-fed flies. When L. plantarum was reintroduced into the antibiotic-treated flies, the preferential mating behavior resumed -- proving that this bacterial species is at least partly responsible for the mating preference.

Rewriting Darwin?

Finally, in cooperation with Prof. Avraham Hefetz of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology, the team analyzed the sexual pheromones produced by the fruit flies. There turned out to be differences in pheromone levels between the two groups of flies -- differences that again disappeared after administering antibiotics.

"The finding indicates that pheromone alterations are a mechanism by which we can identify mating preferences. We therefore hypothesize that it is the bacteria that are driving this change," Prof. Rosenberg says. He adds that these discoveries have implications for our entire understanding of natural selection -- something which may even lead to the development of a new theory of evolution.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. Sharon, D. Segal, J. M. Ringo, A. Hefetz, I. Zilber-Rosenberg, E. Rosenberg. Commensal bacteria play a role in mating preference of Drosophila melanogaster. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1009906107

Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Do our bodies' bacteria play matchmaker?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124211.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2010, December 3). Do our bodies' bacteria play matchmaker?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124211.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Do our bodies' bacteria play matchmaker?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124211.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Brawling Pandas Are Violently Adorable

Brawling Pandas Are Violently Adorable

Buzz60 (Jan. 29, 2015) Video of pandas play fighting at the Chengdu Research Base in China will make your day. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) shows us. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Biofuels aren&apos;t the best alternative to fossil fuels, according to a new report. In fact, they&apos;re quite a bad one. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3-D Printed Wheelchair Helps Two-Legged Dog Learn to Run

3-D Printed Wheelchair Helps Two-Legged Dog Learn to Run

Buzz60 (Jan. 29, 2015) 3-D printing helps another two-legged dog run around with his four-legged friends. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the adorable video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Bring on So Many Different Emotions in Their Human Best Friends

Dogs Bring on So Many Different Emotions in Their Human Best Friends

RightThisMinute (Jan. 28, 2015) From new-puppy happy tears to helpful-grocery-carrying-dog laughter, our four-legged best friends can make us feel the entire spectrum of emotions. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins