Gut Bacterial Load Associates with Dramatic Declines in Anoxia Tolerance in Young Drosophila melanogaster Adults
Anoxia tolerance is strongly correlated with tolerance to heat, desiccation, hyperosmotic shock, freezing, and other general stressors, suggesting that anoxia tolerance is broadly related to stress tolerance. Age affects the capacity of many animals to survive anoxia, but the basis to this ontogenic variation is poorly understood. We exposed adult Drosophila, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12 days past eclosion, to six hours of anoxia and assessed survival 24-hours post-treatment. Survival of anoxia declined strongly with age (from 80% survival for one-day-old flies to 10% survival for 12 day-old-flies), a surprising result since adult fly senescence in Drosophila is usually observed much later. In anoxia, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels declined rapidly (< 30 min) to near-zero levels in both 1 and 12-day old adults; thus the higher anoxia-tolerance of young adults is not due to a better capacity to keep ATP elevated. Relatively few physiological parameters are reported to change over this age range in D. melanogaster, but gut bacterial content increases strongly. As a partial test for a causal link between bacterial load and anoxia tolerance, we replaced food daily, every third day, or every sixth day, and assayed survival of six hours of anoxia and bacterial load at 12 days of age. Anoxia tolerance for 12-day old flies was improved by more food changes and was strongly and negatively affected by bacterial load. These data suggest that increasing bacterial load may play an important role in the age-related decline of anoxia tolerance in Drosophila.