The intestines of animals are typically colonized by a complex, relatively stable microbiota that influences health and fitness, but the underlying mechanisms of colonization remain poorly understood. As a typical animal, the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is associated with a consistent set of commensal bacterial species, yet the reason for this consistency is unknown. We use gnotobiotic flies, genetics, microscopy, and microbiology techniques to examine the development and maintenance of a defined region in the Drosophila foregut that selects and maintains a multispecies community of bacteria with strain-level specificity.
How is exquisite regulation achieved? What does the host control? How do bacterial interactions affect the community composition? How do these relationships evolve?
We recently identified a physical niche structure in the fly gut that houses specific bacterial symbionts. We examine the fly genetics of gut symbiosis including the construction of the microbial niche.
Using both gnotobiotic flies and high throughput in vitro growth assays, we study the microbial interactions that shape the fly gut microbiota.
Using gnotobiotic flies and a battery of physiological and fitness assays, we study the effects of gut microbial community ecology on host cell physiology.
We have developed single-fly feeding and live fly microscopy techniques to measure microbial populations in the gut. These approaches allow us to visualize the process of gut colonization in real time to understand how the fly gut selects the correct bacterial species for colonization.