Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Scheitz CJF, Guo Y, Early AM, Harshman LG, Clark AG (2013) Heritability and Inter-Population Differences in Lipid Profiles of Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72726. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072726


Copyright 2013 Scheitz et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Characterizing and understanding the complex spectrum of lipids in higher organisms lags far behind our analysis of genome and transcriptome sequences. Here we generate and evaluate comprehensive lipid profiles (>200 lipids) of 92 inbred lines from five different Drosophila melanogaster populations. We find that the majority of lipid species are highly heritable, and even lipids with odd-chain fatty acids, which cannot be generated by the fly itself, also have high heritabilities. Abundance of the endosymbiont Wolbachia, a potential provider of odd-chained lipids, was positively correlated with this group of lipids. Additionally, we show that despite years of laboratory rearing on the same medium, the lipid profiles of the five geographic populations are sufficiently distinct for population discrimination. Our data predicts a strikingly different membrane fluidity for flies from the Netherlands, which is supported by their increased ethanol tolerance. We find that 18% of lipids show strong concentration differences between males and females. Through an analysis of the correlation structure of the lipid classes, we find modules of co-regulated lipids and begin to associate these with metabolic constraints. Our data provide a foundation for developing associations between variation in lipid composition with variation in other metabolic attributes, with genome-wide variation, and with metrics of health and overall reproductive fitness.