The intestines of animals are typically colonized by a complex, relatively stable microbiota that influences health and fitness, but the underlying mechanisms of colonization remain poorly understood. As a typical animal, the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is associated with a consistent set of commensal bacterial species, yet the reason for this consistency is unknown. We use gnotobiotic flies, genetics, microscopy, and microbiology techniques to examine the development and maintainance of a defined region in the Drosophila foregut that selects and maintains a multispecies community of bacteria with strain-level specificity.
How is exquisite regulation achieved? What does the host control? How do bacterial interactions affect the community composition? How do these relationships evolve?
1. How does an animal establish and regulate its gut microbiome? We recently identified a physical niche structure in the fly gut that houses specific bacterial symbionts. We examine the fly genetics of gut symbiosis including the construction of the microbial niche.
2. Gut microbial ecology modulates fly health. Using gnotobiotic flies and a battery of physiological and fitness assays, we study the effects of gut microbial community ecology on host cell physiology.
3. Metabolic crossfeeding influences community ecology of the gut microbiota. Using both gnotobiotic flies and high throughput in vitro growth assays, we study the microbial interactions that shape the fly gut microbiota.
4. Real time study of colonization dynamics. We have developed single fly feeding and live fly microscopy techniques to measure microbial populations in the gut. These approaches allow us to visualize the process of gut colonization in real time to understand how the fly gut selects the correct bacterial species for colonization.
Ren Dodge, Eric W. Jones, Haolong Zhu, Benjamin Obadia, Daniel J. Martinez, Chenhui Wang, Andrés Aranda-Díaz, Kevin Aumiller, Zhexian Liu, Marco Voltolini, Eoin L. Brodie, Kerwyn Casey Huang, Jean M. Carlson, David A. Sivak, Allan C. Spradling, William B. Ludington