• Open Access

The functional costs and benefits of dietary restriction in Drosophila


Joep M. S. Burger, Present address: Unit of Ecology and Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Fribourg, Chemin du Musée 10, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 26 3008856; fax: +41 26 3009698; e-mail: jozef.burger@unifr.ch


Dietary restriction (DR) extends lifespan in an impressively wide array of species spanning three eukaryotic kingdoms. In sharp contrast, relatively little is known about the effects of DR on functional senescence, with most of the work having been done on mice and rats. Here we used Drosophila melanogaster to test the assumption that lifespan extension through DR slows down age-related functional deterioration. Adult virgin females were kept on one of three diets, with sucrose and yeast concentrations ranging from 7% to 11% to 16% (w/v). Besides age-specific survival and fecundity, we measured starvation resistance, oxidative stress resistance, immunity, and cold-stress resilience at ages 1, 3, 5, and 7 weeks. We confirmed that DR extends lifespan: median lifespans ranged from 38 days (16% diet) to 46 days (11% diet) to 54 days (7% diet). We also confirmed that DR reduces fecundity, although the shortest-lived flies only had the highest fecundity when males were infrequently available. The most striking result was that DR initially increased starvation resistance, but strongly decreased starvation resistance later in life. Generally, the effects of DR varied across traits and were age dependent. We conclude that DR does not universally slow down functional deterioration in Drosophila. The effects of DR on physiological function might not be as evolutionarily conserved as its effect on lifespan. Given the age-specific effects of DR on functional state, imposing DR late in life might not provide the same functional benefits as when applied at early ages.