Resident gut bacteria are constantly influencing the immune system, yet the role of the immune system in shaping microbiota composition during an organism’s life span has remained unclear. Experiments in mice have been inconclusive due to differences in husbandry schemes that led to conflicting results. We used Drosophila as a genetically tractable system with a simpler gut bacterial population structure streamlined genetic backgrounds and established cross schemes to address this issue. We found that, depending on their genetic background, young flies had microbiota of different diversities that converged with age to the same Acetobacteraceae-dominated pattern in healthy flies. This pattern was accelerated in immune-compromised flies with higher bacterial load and gut cell death. Nevertheless, immune-compromised flies resembled their genetic background, indicating that familial transmission was the main force regulating gut microbiota. In contrast, flies with a constitutively active immune system had microbiota readily distinguishable from their genetic background with the introduction and establishment of previously undetectable bacterial families. This indicated the influence of immunity over familial transmission. Moreover, hyperactive immunity and increased enterocyte death resulted in the highest bacterial load observed starting from early adulthood. Cohousing experiments showed that the microenvironment also played an important role in the structure of the microbiota where flies with constitutive immunity defined the gut microbiota of their cohabitants. Our data show that, in Drosophila, constitutively active immunity shapes the structure and density of gut microbiota.
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