Sugar-rich larval diet promotes lower adult pathogen load and higher survival after infection in a polyphagous fly

Hue Dinh, Ida Lundbäck, Sheemal Kumar, Anh The Than, Juliano Morimoto, Fleur Ponton* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Nutrition is a central factor influencing immunity and resistance to infection, but the extent to which nutrition during development affects adult responses to infections is poorly understood. Our study investigated how the nutritional composition of the larval diet affects the survival, pathogen load and food intake of adult fruit flies, Bactrocera tryoni, after septic bacterial infection. We found a sex-specific effect of larval diet composition on survival post-infection: survival rate was higher and bacterial load was lower for infected females raised on a sugar-rich larval diet than for females raised on a protein-rich larval diet, an effect that was absent in males. Both males and females were heavier when fed a balanced larval diet compared with a protein- or sugar-rich diet, while body lipid reserves were higher for those that had consumed the sugar-rich larval diet compared with other diets. Body protein reserves were lower for flies that had been raised on the sugar-rich larval diet compared with other diets in males, but not females. Both females and males shifted their nutrient intake to ingest a sugar-rich diet when infected compared with sham-infected flies without any effect of the larval diet, suggesting that sugar-rich diets can be beneficial to fight off bacterial infection as shown in previous literature. Overall, our findings show that nutrition during early life can shape individual fitness in adulthood.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb243910
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

We thank Prof. Phillip Taylor for laboratory support and fruitful discussions regarding the data analyses. We also thank Dr Kawsar Khan for his help in making graphs and figures.

This research was conducted as part of the SITplus collaborative fruit fly programme. Project Raising Q-fly Sterile Insect Technique to World Standard (HG14033) is funded by the Hort Frontiers Fruit Fly Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Macquarie University and contributions from the Australian Government. H.D. was supported by a Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship. A.T.T. was supported by a MQ-VIED Joint Scholarship (Macquarie University). Open access funding provided by Macquarie University. Deposited in PMC for immediate release.

Data Availability Statement

Data availability
Data are available from the Dryad digital repository (Ponton, 2022):


  • fitness
  • immunity
  • macronutrient
  • nutrition
  • resistance


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