Modular Evolution of the Drosophila Metabolome

Benjamin R. Harrison, Jessica M. Hoffman, Ariana Samuelson, Daniel Raftery, Daniel E.L. Promislow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Comparative phylogenetic studies offer a powerful approach to study the evolution of complex traits. Although much effort has been devoted to the evolution of the genome and to organismal phenotypes, until now relatively little work has been done on the evolution of the metabolome, despite the fact that it is composed of the basic structural and functional building blocks of all organisms. Here we explore variation in metabolite levels across 50 My of evolution in the genus Drosophila, employing a common garden design to measure the metabolome within and among 11 species of Drosophila. We find that both sex and age have dramatic and evolutionarily conserved effects on the metabolome. We also find substantial evidence that many metabolite pairs covary after phylogenetic correction, and that such metabolome coevolution is modular. Some of these modules are enriched for specific biochemical pathways and show different evolutionary trajectories, with some showing signs of stabilizing selection. Both observations suggest that functional relationships may ultimately cause such modularity. These coevolutionary patterns also differ between sexes and are affected by age. We explore the relevance of modular evolution to fitness by associating modules with lifespan variation measured in the same common garden. We find several modules associated with lifespan, particularly in the metabolome of older flies. Oxaloacetate levels in older females appear to coevolve with lifespan, and a lifespan-associated module in older females suggests that metabolic associations could underlie 50 My of lifespan evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbermsab307
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Drosophila
  • coevolution
  • evolution
  • metabolome
  • modular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Modular Evolution of the Drosophila Metabolome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this