Commensal bacteria play a role in mating preference of Drosophila melanogaster

Gil Sharon, Daniel Segal, John M. Ringo, Abraham Hefetz, Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg, Eugene Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Development of mating preference is considered to be an early event in speciation. In this study, mating preference was achieved by dividing a population of Drosophila melanogaster and rearing one part on a molasses medium and the other on a starch medium. When the isolated populations were mixed, "molasses flies" preferred to mate with other molasses flies and "starch flies" preferred to mate with other starch flies. The mating preference appeared after only one generation and was maintained for at least 37 generations. Antibiotic treatment abolished mating preference, suggesting that the fly microbiota was responsible for the phenomenon. This was confirmed by infection experiments with microbiota obtained from the fly media (before antibiotic treatment) as well as with a mixed culture of Lactobacillus species and a pure culture of Lactobacillus plantarum isolated from starch flies. Analytical data suggest that symbiotic bacteria can influence mating preference by changing the levels of cuticular hydrocarbon sex pheromones. The results are discussed within the framework of the hologenome theory of evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20051-20056
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number46
StatePublished - 16 Nov 2010


  • Holobiont
  • Hologenome
  • Lactobacillus
  • Microbiota
  • Symbiosis


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