Developmental diet alters the fecundity-longevity relationship and age-related gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The standard evolutionary theory of aging predicts a negative relationship (trade-off) between fecundity and longevity. However, in principle, the fecundity-longevity relationship can become positive in populations in which individuals have unequal resources. Positive fecundity-longevity relationships also occur in queens of eusocial insects such as ants and bees. Developmental diet is likely to be central to determining trade-offs as it affects key fitness traits, but its exact role remains uncertain. For example, in Drosophila melanogaster, changes in adult diet can affect fecundity, longevity, and gene expression throughout life, but it is unknown how changes in developmental (larval) diet affect fecundity-longevity relationships and gene expression in adults. Using D. melanogaster, we tested the hypothesis that varying developmental diets alters the directionality of fecundity-longevity relationships in adults, and characterized associated gene expression changes. We reared larvae on low (20%), medium (100%), and high (120%) yeast diets, and transferred adult females to a common diet. We measured fecundity and longevity of individual adult females and profiled gene expression changes with age. Adult females raised on different larval diets exhibited fecundity-longevity relationships that varied from significantly positive to significantly negative, despite minimal differences in mean lifetime fertility or longevity. Treatments also differed in age-related gene expression, including for aging-related genes. Hence, the sign of fecundity-longevity relationships in adult insects can be altered and even reversed by changes in larval diet quality. By extension, larval diet differences may represent a key mechanistic factor underpinning positive fecundity-longevity relationships observed in species such as eusocial insects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2240–2250
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number12
Early online date16 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Aging
  • Eusociality
  • Life history
  • Nutrition
  • mRNA-seq

Cite this