The effect of developmental stage on the sensitivity of cell and body size to hypoxia in Drosophila melanogaster

Erica C. Heinrich, Manoush Farzin, C. Jaco Klok, Jon Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Animals reared in hypoxic environments frequently exhibit smaller body sizes than when reared under normal atmospheric oxygen concentrations. The mechanisms responsible for this widely documented pattern of body size plasticity are poorly known. We studied the ontogeny of responses of Drosophila melanogaster adult body size to hypoxic exposure. We hypothesized that there may be critical oxygen-sensitive periods during D. melanogaster development that are primarily responsive to body size regulation. Instead, our results showed that exposure to hypoxia (an atmospheric partial pressure of oxygen of 10?kPa) during any developmental stage (embryo, larvae and pupae) leads to smaller adult size. However, short hypoxic exposures during the late larval and early pupal stages had the greatest effects on adult size. We then investigated whether the observed reductions in size induced by hypoxia at various developmental stages were the result of a decrease in cell size or cell number. Abdominal epithelial cells of flies reared continuously in hypoxia were smaller in mean diameter and were size-limited compared with cells of flies reared in normoxia. Flies reared in hypoxia during the embryonic, larval or pupal stage, or during their entire development, had smaller wing areas than flies reared in normoxia. Flies reared during the pupal stage, or throughout development in hypoxia had smaller wing cells, even after controlling for the effect of wing size. These results suggest that hypoxia effects on the body size of D. melanogaster probably occur by multiple mechanisms operating at various developmental stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1419-1427
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Development
  • Oxygen
  • Size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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