The importance of being persistent: The first true resident gut symbiont in Drosophila

by Dali Ma, François Leulier

In the animal kingdom, nutritional mutualism is a perpetual and intimate dialogue carried out between the host and its associated gut community members. This dialogue affects many aspects of the host’s development and physiology. Some constituents of the animal gut microbiota can stably reside within the host for years, and such long-term persistence might be a prerequisite for these microbes to assert their beneficial impact. How long-term persistence is established and maintained is an interesting question, and several classic model organisms associated with cultivable resident strains are used to address this question. However, in Drosophila, this model has long eluded fly geneticists. In this issue of PLOS Biology, Pais and colleagues present the most rigorous and comprehensive demonstration to date that persistence and gut residency do take place in the digestive tract of Drosophila melanogaster. This natural gut isolate of Acetobacter thailandicus stably colonizes the adult fly foregut, accelerates larval maturation, and boosts host fecundity and fertility as efficiently as the known laboratory strains. The discovery of such stable association will be a boon for the Drosophila community interested in host–microbiota interaction, as it not only provides a novel model to unravel the molecular underpinnings of persistence but also opens a new arena for using Drosophila to study the implications of gut persistence in evolution and ecology.

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