Skip to main content

Intraspecific Genetic Variation for Lead-Induced Changes in Reproductive Strategies


We aimed to identify genetic variation in the response of reproductive behaviors to lead (Pb2+) exposure. We reared a subset of the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) inbred lines on control or Pb-treated (500 μM PbAc) medium and tested for differences in copulation latency, copulation duration, and fecundity. Pb exposure decreased fecundity (p < 0.05) and increased copulation duration (p < 0.05) across DGRP lines. We found intraspecific genetic variation in latency, duration, and fecundity in both control and Pb-treated flies, with heritability ranging from 0.45 to 0.80. We found a significant genotype-by-environment interaction for copulation duration (p < 0.05). Genetic correlation matrices revealed significant genetic variation in common between control and Pb-treated flies for each trait (p < 0.05). Our results indicate that intraspecific genetic variation plays a role in Pb susceptibility and emphasize the importance of considering the impacts of variation in susceptibility to Pb pollution.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Abolaji AO, Kamdem JP, Farombi EO, Rocha JBT (2013) Drosophila melanogaster as a promising model organism in toxicological studies. Arch Bas App Med 1:33–38

    Google Scholar 

  2. Beeby A (1991) Toxic metal uptake and essential metal regulation in terrestrial invertebrates: a review. In: Newman MC, McIntosh AW (eds) Metal ecotoxicology: concepts & applications. Lewis Publishers, Chelsea.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Burke MK, Rose MR (2009) Experimental evolution with Drosophila. Am J Physiol Reg Integrat Comp Physiol 296:R1847–R1854

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Demayo A, Taylor MC, Taylor KW, Hodson PV, Hammond PB (1982) Toxic effects of lead and lead compounds on human health, aquatic life, wildlife plants, and livestock. CRC Crit Rev Environ Contr 12:257–305

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Eisler R (1988) Lead hazards to fish, wildlife, and invertebrates: a synoptic review. US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of Interior. Biol Rep 85 (1.14): Contam Haz Rev Report No. 14

  6. Gundacker C, Gencik M, Hengstschläger M (2010) The relevance of the individual genetic background for the toxicokinetics of two significant neurodevelopmental toxicants: mercury and lead. Mut Res 705:130–140

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Hegmann JP, Possidente B (1981) Estimating genetic correlations from inbred strains. Behav Genet 11:103–114

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Hirsch HVB, Mercer J, Sambaziotis H, Huber M, Stark DT, Torno-Morley T, Hollocher K, Ghiradella H, Ruden DM (2003) Behavioral effects of chronic exposure to low levels of lead in Drosophila melanogaster. Neurotoxicology 24:435–442

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Hirsch HVB, Possidente D, Averill S, Palmetto Despain T, Buytkins J, Thomas V, Goebel WP, Shipp-Hilts A, Wilson D, Hollocher K, Possidente B, Lnenicka G, Ruden DM (2009) Variations at a quantitative trait locus (QTL) affect development of behavior in lead-exposed Drosophila melanogaster. Neurotoxicology 30:305–311

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Hirsch HVB, Lnenicka G, Possidente D, Possidente B, Garfinkel MD, Wang L, Lu X, Ruden DM (2012) Drosophila melanogaster as a model for lead neurotoxicology and toxicogenomics research. Front Gen 3:1–7

    Google Scholar 

  11. Huang W, Massouras A, Inoue Y, Peiffer J, Ràmia M et al (2014) Natural variation in genome architecture among 205 Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel Lines. Genome Res 24:1193–1208

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Little EE (1990) Behavioral toxicology: stimulating challenges for a growing discipline. Environ Tox Chem 9:1–2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Mackay TFC, Richards S, Stone EA, Barbadilla A, Ayroles JF et al (2012) The Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel. Nat 482:173–178

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Manier MK, Belote JM, Berben KS, Novikov D, Stuart WT, Pitnick S (2009) Resolving mechanisms of competitive fertilization success in Drosophila melanogaster. Science 328:354–357

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Markow TA, O’Grady P (2008) Reproductive ecology of Drosophila. Funct Ecol 22:747–759

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Peterson EK, Long HE (2018) Experimental protocol for using Drosophila as an invertebrate model system for toxicity testing in the laboratory. JoVE 137:e57450

    Google Scholar 

  17. Peterson EK, Wilson DT, Possidente B, Possidente D, McDaniel P, Morley E, Possidente D, Hollocher KT, Ruden DM, Hirsch HVB (2017) Lead (Pb2+) accumulation, elimination, sequestration, and genetic variation within and between generations in a model system, Drosophila melanogaster. Chemosphere 181:368–375

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Peterson EK, Yukilevich R, Kehlbeck J, LaRue KM, Ferraiolo K, Hollocher K, Hirsch HVB, Possidente B (2017) Asymetrical positive assortative mating induced by developmental lead (Pb2+) exposure in a model system Drosophila melanogaster. Curr Zool 63(2):195–203

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Rand MD (2010) Drosophotoxicology: the growing potential for Drosophila in neurotoxicology. Neurotoxicol Teratol 32:74

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Rubin GM, Yandell MD, Wortman JR, Gabor Miklos GL, Nelson CR et al (2000) Comparative genomics of the eukaryotes. Science 287:2204–2215

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Turiegano E, Mondero I, Pita M, Torroja L, Canal I (2012) Effect of Drosophila melanogaster female size on male mating success. J Insect Behav 26:89–100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. White LD, Cory-Slechta DA, Gilbert ME, Tiffany-Castiglioni E, Zawia NH, Virgolini M, Rossi- George A, Lasley SM, Qian YC, Riyaz Basha M (2007) New and evolving concepts in the neurotoxicology of lead. Toxicol Appl Pharmac 225:1–27

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Williamson P, Evans PR (1972) Lead: levels in roadside invertebrates and small mammals. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 8:280–288

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Zhou S, Morozova TV, Hussain YN, Luoma SE, McCoy L, Yamamoto A, Mackay TFC, Anholt RRH (2016) The genetic basis for variation in sensitivity to lead toxicity in Drosophila melanogaster. Environ Health Perspect 124:1062–1070

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by funding from the Department of Biological Sciences (University at Albany-State University of New York) and the Department of Biology (Skidmore College). We would like to thank Dr. Gregory Lnenicka (Department of Biological Sciences, University at Albany-State University of New York), Dr. David Lawrence (Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University at Albany-State University of New York), Dr. Robert Osuna (Department of Biological Sciences, University at Albany-State University of New York) and Dr. Roman Yukilevich (Department of Biology, Union College) for their advice and support throughout the development, implementation and writing of this research. We would also like to thank Lindsay Bouchard, Julie Kappil, and Mark Waterhouse for their assistance during mating or fecundity assays.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elizabeth K. Peterson.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Peterson, E.K., Possidente, B., Stark, A. et al. Intraspecific Genetic Variation for Lead-Induced Changes in Reproductive Strategies. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 103, 233–239 (2019).

Download citation


  • Genetic variation
  • Copulation latency
  • Copulation duration
  • Fecundity
  • Accumulation