Genome-Wide Analysis of Starvation-Selected Drosophila melanogaster-A Genetic Model of Obesity

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Molecular Biology and Evolution





First page number:


Last page number:



Experimental evolution affords the opportunity to investigate adaptation to stressful environments. Studies combining experimental evolution with whole-genome resequencing have provided insight into the dynamics of adaptation and a new tool to uncover genes associated with polygenic traits. Here, we selected for starvation resistance in populations of Drosophila melanogaster for over 80 generations. In response, the starvation-selected lines developed an obese condition, storing nearly twice the level of total lipids than their unselected controls. Although these fats provide a ∼3-fold increase in starvation resistance, the imbalance in lipid homeostasis incurs evolutionary cost. Some of these tradeoffs resemble obesity-associated pathologies in mammals including metabolic depression, low activity levels, dilated cardiomyopathy, and disrupted sleeping patterns. To determine the genetic basis of these traits, we resequenced genomic DNA from the selected lines and their controls. We found 1,046,373 polymorphic sites, many of which diverged between selection treatments. In addition, we found a wide range of genetic heterogeneity between the replicates of the selected lines, suggesting multiple mechanisms of adaptation. Genome-wide heterozygosity was low in the selected populations, with many large blocks of SNPs nearing fixation. We found candidate loci under selection by using an algorithm to control for the effects of genetic drift. These loci were mapped to a set of 382 genes, which associated with many processes including nutrient response, catabolic metabolism, and lipid droplet function. The results of our study speak to the evolutionary origins of obesity and provide new targets to understand the polygenic nature of obesity in a unique model system.


Obesity, Evolve and resequence, Drosophila melanogaster, Starvation selection, Experimental evolution, Metabolism



UNLV article access

Search your library