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Food, Sex and the Metabolome

   Department of Biology

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  Dr Jennifer Perry, Dr S Wigby  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A remarkable finding from recent nutritional research is that, in many animals, diets that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates are associated with increased reproduction, whereas low protein and high carbohydrate diets are associated with longer lifespan.

However, we know little about how responses to diet composition vary with mating rate. This is an important gap. In sexual species, mating is one of the major events of life. Mating typically triggers a cascade of physiological and behavioural changes as reproduction is ramped up, with downstream consequences including increased food intake and decreased lifespan.

This project will investigate how diet composition and mating rate interact to influence molecular nutritional condition, measured through metabolomic profiling. Metabolomic profiling represents a powerful technique that measures all products of metabolism present in a tissue at a given timepoint, yielding a snapshot of an organism’s metabolic and nutritional state. The project will use Drosophila fruit flies, which allow controlled behavioural experiments, detailed knowledge of genetics and metabolic pathways, and the potential to extend findings to other animals.

The project will involve:
- Experiments that manipulate diet composition and mating rate to examine effects on reproduction, lifespan and indicators of health
- Behavioural experiments to examine feeding behaviours linked to metabolomic responses
- Experimental evolution of the metabolome in males and females in response to the social and sexual environment
- Preparation and submission of samples of fruit fly tissue for metabolomics processing
- Analysis of metabolomics datasets, making use of the curated and annotated Drosophila metabolomic library

Overall, this approach allows the possibility of detecting of cryptic responses to diet and mating that may not be detectable at the whole organismal level. It will also allow comparisons with the metabolomic profiles of a wide range of animals, including humans, because basic metabolic pathways are largely conserved among animals.

Application procedure details at: The application deadline is 25th January 2019.

Funding Notes

Funding is competitive, via either University/Departmental Studentships or Doctoral Training Centres (


Sepil I, Hopkins BR, Dean R, Thezenas M-L, Charles PD, Konietzny R, Fischer R, Kessler BM, Wigby S (2018) Quantitative proteomics identification of seminal fluid proteins in male Drosophila melanogaster. Molecular & Cellular Proteomics.

Morimoto J, Wigby S (2016) Differential effects of male nutrient balance on pre-and post-copulatory traits, and consequences for female reproduction in Drosophila melanogaster. Scientific Reports 6: 27673.

Perry JC, Joag R, Hosken DJ, Wedell N, Radwan J, Wigby S (2016) Experimental evolution under hyper-promiscuity in Drosophila melanogaster. BMC Evolutionary Biology 16:131

Perry JC, Harrison PW, Mank JE (2014) The ontogeny and evolution of sex-biased gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster. Molecular Biology and Evolution 31: 1206-19

Perry JC, Sirot LK, Wigby S (2013) The seminal symphony: how to compose an ejaculate. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28: 414-22

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