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Starvation but not locomotion enhances heart robustness in Drosophila.


Insects and vertebrates have multiple major physiological systems, each species having a circulatory system, a metabolic system, and a respiratory system that enable locomotion and survival in stressful environments, among other functions. Broadening our understanding of the physiology of Drosophila melanogaster requires the parsing of interrelationships among such major component physiological systems. By combining electrical pacing and flight exhaustion assays with manipulative conditioning, we have started to unpack the interrelationships between cardiac function, locomotor performance, and other functional characters such as starvation and desiccation resistance. Manipulative sequences incorporating these four physiological characters were applied to five D. melanogaster lab populations that share a common origin from the wild and a common history of experimental evolution. While exposure to starvation or desiccation significantly reduced flight duration, exhaustion due to flight only affected subsequent desiccation resistance. A strong association was found between flight duration and desiccation resistance, providing additional support for the hypothesis that these traits depend on glycogen and water content. However, there was negligible impact on rate of cardiac arrests from exhaustion by flight or exposure to desiccant. Brief periods of starvation significantly lowered the rate of cardiac arrest. These results provide suggestive support for the adverse impact of lipids on Drosophila heart robustness, a parallel result to those of many comparable studies in human cardiology. Overall, this study underscores clear distinctions among the connections between specific physiological responses to stress and specific types of physiological performance.

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