Animal-associated microorganisms (microbiota) dramatically influence the nutritional and physiological traits of their hosts. To expand our understanding of such influences, we predicted bacterial genes that influence a quantitative animal trait by a comparative genomic approach, and we extended these predictions via mutant analysis. We focused on Drosophila melanogaster starvation resistance (SR). We first confirmed that D. melanogaster SR responds to the microbiota by demonstrating that bacterium-free flies have greater SR than flies bearing a standard 5-species microbial community, and we extended this analysis by revealing the species-specific influences of 38 genome-sequenced bacterial species on D. melanogaster SR. A subsequent metagenome-wide association analysis predicted bacterial genes with potential influence on D. melanogaster SR, among which were significant enrichments in bacterial genes for the metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids and B vitamins. Dietary supplementation experiments established that the addition of methionine, but not B vitamins, to the diets significantly lowered D. melanogaster SR in a way that was additive, but not interactive, with the microbiota. A direct role for bacterial methionine metabolism genes in D. melanogaster SR was subsequently confirmed by analysis of flies that were reared individually with distinct methionine cycle Escherichia coli mutants. The correlated responses of D. melanogaster SR to bacterial methionine metabolism mutants and dietary modification are consistent with the established finding that bacteria can influence fly phenotypes through dietary modification, although we do not provide explicit evidence of this conclusion. Taken together, this work reveals that D. melanogaster SR is a microbiota-responsive trait, and specific bacterial genes underlie these influences.IMPORTANCE Extending descriptive studies of animal-associated microorganisms (microbiota) to define causal mechanistic bases for their influence on animal traits is an emerging imperative. In this study, we reveal that D. melanogaster starvation resistance (SR), a model quantitative trait in animal genetics, responds to the presence and identity of the microbiota. Using a predictive analysis, we reveal that the amino acid methionine has a key influence on D. melanogaster SR and show that bacterial methionine metabolism mutants alter normal patterns of SR in flies bearing the bacteria. Our data further suggest that these effects are additive, and we propose the untested hypothesis that, similar to bacterial effects on fruit fly triacylglyceride deposition, the bacterial influence may be through dietary modification. Together, these findings expand our understanding of the bacterial genetic basis for influence on a nutritionally relevant trait of a model animal host.
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