Fruit fly gut microbes can mediate non-genetic traits passed from parents to offspring!
Thanks to Dr. Per Stenberg for his contribution!
Microbe of the episode
Heritability of traits is essential for evolution; if an ability can't be passed on from generation to generation, then natural selection can't act on it on a population-wide level.
An organism's genome is the source of most heritable traits, as DNA gets passed on to offspring, but a number of other ways of passing on traits have been discovered, in the field of epigenetics.
In this study, the gut microbes from fruit flies raised in one temperature could affect the gene expression of their offspring raised in a different temperature, compared to flies that had been kept at the latter temperature over both generations. While the effects on fly fitness or behavior are not yet known, these results suggest that gut microbes, transmitted from parents to offspring, could be another mechanism of heritability.
Zare A, Johansson A-M, Karlsson E, Delhomme N, Stenberg P. 2018. The gut microbiome participates in transgenerational inheritance of low-temperature responses in Drosophila melanogaster. FEBS Lett 592:4078–4086.
Other interesting stories
- Bacteria living in alfalfa plants seem to extend roundworm lifespans (paper)
- Whole fruit fly microbe community affects whether flies live longer or reproduce more
- Hot spring archaea have unusual membranes that help tolerate the heat