Sterols as dietary markers for Drosophila melanogaster
During cold acclimation fruit flies switch their feeding from yeast to plant food, however there are no robust molecular markers to monitor this in the wild. Drosophila melanogaster is a sterol auxotroph and relies on dietary sterols to produce lipid membranes, lipoproteins and molting hormones. We employed shotgun lipidomics to quantify eight major food sterols in total lipid extracts of heads and genital tracts of adult flies. We found that their sterol composition is dynamic and reflective of fly diet in an organ-specific manner. Season-dependent changes observed in the organs of wild-living flies suggested that the molar ratio between yeast (ergosterol, zymosterol) and plant (sitosterol, stigmasterol) sterols is a quantifiable, generic and unequivocal marker of their feeding behavior suitable for ecological and environmental population-based studies. The enrichment of phytosterols over yeast sterols in wild-living flies at low temperatures is consistent with switching from yeast to plant diet and corroborates the concomitantly increased unsaturation of their membrane lipids.