Physiological and metabolic consequences of viral infection in Drosophila melanogaster

Pieter A Arnold, Karyn N Johnson, C.R. White

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58 Citations (Scopus)


An extensively used model system for investigating anti-pathogen defence and innate immunity involves Drosophila C virus (DCV) and Drosophila melanogaster. While there has been a significant effort to understand infection consequences at molecular and genetic levels, an understanding of fundamental higher-level physiology of this system is lacking. Here, we investigate the metabolic rate, locomotory activity, dry mass and water content of adult male flies injected with DCV, measured over the 4?days prior to virus-induced mortality. DCV infection resulted in multiple pathologies, notably the depression of metabolic rate beginning 2?days post-infection as a response to physiological stress. Even in this depressed metabolic state, infected flies did not decrease their activity until 1?day prior to mortality, which further suggests that cellular processes and synthesis are disrupted because of viral infection. Growth rate was also reduced, indicating that energy partitioning is altered as infection progresses. Microbial infection in insects typically results in an increase in excretion; however, water appeared to be retained in DCV-infected flies. We hypothesise that this is due to a fluid intake-output imbalance due to disrupted transport signalling and a reduced rate of metabolic processing. Furthermore, infected flies had a reduced rate of respiration as a consequence of metabolic depression, which minimised water loss, and the excess mass as a result of water retention is concurrent with impaired locomotory ability. These findings contribute to developing a mechanistic understanding of how pathologies accumulate and lead to mortality in infected flies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3350-3357
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • DCV
  • Digestion
  • Drosophila C virus
  • Locomotion
  • Mass
  • Metabolism

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