Genetic variation in Drosophila melanogaster pathogen susceptibility

M. C. TINSLEY a1c1, S. BLANFORD a1 and F. M. JIGGINS a1
a1 Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK

Article author query
tinsley mc   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
blanford s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
jiggins fm   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Genetic variation in susceptibility to pathogens is a central concern both to evolutionary and medical biologists, and for the implementation of biological control programmes. We have investigated the extent of such variation in Drosophila melanogaster, a major model organism for immunological research. We found that within populations, different Drosophila genotypes show wide-ranging variation in their ability to survive infection with the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana. Furthermore, striking divergence in susceptibility has occurred between genotypes from temperate and tropical African locations. We hypothesize that this may have been driven by adaptation to local differences in pathogen exposure or host ecology. Genetic variation within populations may be maintained by temporal or spatial variation in the costs and benefits of pathogen defence. Insect pathogens are employed widely as biological control agents and entomopathogenic fungi are currently being developed for reducing malaria transmission by mosquitoes. Our data highlight the need for concern about resistance evolution to these novel biopesticides in vector populations.

(Received October 28 2005)
(Revised December 26 2005)
(Accepted January 3 2006)
(February 24 2006)

Key Words: Drosophila melanogaster; Beauveria bassiana; immunity; genetic variation; malaria; resistance evolution.

c1 Current address for correspondence: School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK. Tel: 00 44 (0) 1786 467840. Fax: 00 44 (0) 1786 467843. E-mail: