In the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, mate choice during courtship depends on detecting olfactory cues, sex pheromones, which are initially processed in the antennal lobe (AL), a primary olfactory centre of the brain. However, no sexual differences in the structure of the AL have been found in Drosophila. We compared the central brain anatomy of 37 species of Drosophilidae from the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago, uncovering an extreme sexual dimorphism within the AL in which two out of the 51 identifiable glomeruli were markedly enlarged in males. A phylogeny indicated that the sexual dimorphism of the homologous glomeruli arose 0.4-1.9 Myr ago independently in two species groups of Hawaiian endemic Drosophilidae. The corresponding glomeruli in D. melanogaster were also found to be sexually dimorphic. The formation of glomeruli of male size is prevented by the ectopic expression of female-type transformer (tra) cDNA in males, indicating that the glomerular sexual dimorphism is under the control of the sex-determination cascade of genes. It is suggested that a defined set of glomeruli in Drosophila can enlarge in response to sex-determination genetic signals, the mutations of which may result in species differences in sexual dimorphism of the brain.
Most animals including insects rely on olfaction to find their mating partners. In moths, males are attracted by female-produced sex pheromones inducing stereotyped sexual behavior. The behaviorally relevant olfactory information is processed in the primary olfactory centre, the antennal lobe (AL). Evidence is now accumulating that modulation of sex-linked behavioral output occurs through neuronal plasticity via the action of hormones and/or catecholamines. A G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) binding to 20-hydroxyecdysone, the main insect steroid hormone, and dopamine, has been identified in Drosophila (DmDopEcR), and was suggested to modulate neuronal signaling. In the male moth Agrotis ipsilon, the behavioral and central nervous responses to pheromone are age-dependent. To further unveil the mechanisms of this olfactory plasticity, we searched for DopEcR and tested its potential role in the behavioral response to sex pheromone in A. ipsilon males. Our results show that A. ipsilon DopEcR (named AipsDopEcR) is predominantly expressed in the nervous system. The corresponding protein was detected immunohistochemically in the ALs and higher brain centers including the mushroom bodies. Moreover, AipsDopEcR expression increased with age. Using a strategy of RNA interference, we also show that silencing of AipsDopEcR inhibited the behavioral response to sex pheromone in wind tunnel experiments. Altogether our results indicate that this GPCR is involved in the expression of sexual behavior in the male moth, probably by modulating the central nervous processing of sex pheromone through the action of one or both of its ligands.
Processing of relevant olfactory and pheromonal cues has long been known as an important process necessary for social and sexual behavior in rodents. Several nuclei that receive input from the vomeronasal projection pathway are involved in sexual behavior and show changes in immediate early gene expression after stimulation with a variety of sex-related stimuli. The nuclei in this pathway are sexually dimorphic due to the early patterning events induced by estradiol derived from testicular androgens, which developmentally defeminize and masculinize the brain and adult sexual behavior. Masculinization can be induced independently of estradiol via prostaglandin-E2.(PGE2), and therefore assessed separately from defeminization. Here we examined the effects of brain defeminization and masculinization on neuronal response to sex-related odors using Fos, the protein product of the immediate early gene c-fos, as an indicator of activity. Female rat pups treated with a cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor, to reduce PGE2, plus estradiol, estradiol alone, and PGE2 alone were exposed to estrous female odor as adults and the resulting Fos expression was examined in the medial amygdala, preoptic area, and ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus. Defeminized and/or masculinized females all showed patterns of Fos activity similar to control males and significantly different from control females. These results suggest that early exposure to estradiol and PGE2 do not affect olfaction in females, but switch the activity pattern of sex-related nuclei in females to resemble that of males following exposure to sexually-relevant cues.
estradiol; prostaglandin-E2; Fos; sexual behavior; pheromones
Anatomical and physiological experiments in the lamprey reveal the neural circuit involved in transforming olfactory inputs into motor outputs, which was previously unknown in a vertebrate.
It is widely recognized that animals respond to odors by generating or modulating specific motor behaviors. These reactions are important for daily activities, reproduction, and survival. In the sea lamprey, mating occurs after ovulated females are attracted to spawning sites by male sex pheromones. The ubiquity and reliability of olfactory-motor behavioral responses in vertebrates suggest tight coupling between the olfactory system and brain areas controlling movements. However, the circuitry and the underlying cellular neural mechanisms remain largely unknown. Using lamprey brain preparations, and electrophysiology, calcium imaging, and tract tracing experiments, we describe the neural substrate responsible for transforming an olfactory input into a locomotor output. We found that olfactory stimulation with naturally occurring odors and pheromones induced large excitatory responses in reticulospinal cells, the command neurons for locomotion. We have also identified the anatomy and physiology of this circuit. The olfactory input was relayed in the medial part of the olfactory bulb, in the posterior tuberculum, in the mesencephalic locomotor region, to finally reach reticulospinal cells in the hindbrain. Activation of this olfactory-motor pathway generated rhythmic ventral root discharges and swimming movements. Our study bridges the gap between behavior and cellular neural mechanisms in vertebrates, identifying a specific subsystem within the CNS, dedicated to producing motor responses to olfactory inputs.
Animal behaviors, including locomotion, can be driven by olfactory cues, such as pheromones or food sources. The neural substrate (neuroanatomical connections and physiological signals) that permits the transformation of olfactory inputs into locomotor responses is still unknown in vertebrates. In the present study, we identify such a neural substrate in the lamprey. Here, olfactory signals from the outside world are transmitted to the reticulospinal neurons in the lower brainstem, which provide the descending locomotor command to the spinal cord. We found that this circuit originates in the medial portion of the olfactory bulb and that connections are made in the posterior tuberculum, a ventral diencephalic structure. These inputs are then conveyed to the mesencephalic locomotor region, known to project extensively to brainstem reticulospinal neurons and thereby activate locomotion. Our results illuminate a specific dedicated neural substrate in the brain of lampreys that underlies olfactory-motor responses, which is activated by both food-related or pheromonal olfactory cues. It will be of interest to determine whether such a pathway is preserved in all vertebrates.
Most animals rely on olfaction to find sexual partners, food or a habitat. The olfactory system faces the challenge of extracting meaningful information from a noisy odorous environment. In most moth species, males respond to sex pheromone emitted by females in an environment with abundant plant volatiles. Plant odours could either facilitate the localization of females (females calling on host plants), mask the female pheromone or they could be neutral without any effect on the pheromone. Here we studied how mixtures of a behaviourally-attractive floral odour, heptanal, and the sex pheromone are encoded at different levels of the olfactory pathway in males of the noctuid moth Agrotis ipsilon. In addition, we asked how interactions between the two odorants change as a function of the males' mating status. We investigated mixture detection in both the pheromone-specific and in the general odorant pathway. We used a) recordings from individual sensilla to study responses of olfactory receptor neurons, b) in vivo calcium imaging with a bath-applied dye to characterize the global input response in the primary olfactory centre, the antennal lobe and c) intracellular recordings of antennal lobe output neurons, projection neurons, in virgin and newly-mated males. Our results show that heptanal reduces pheromone sensitivity at the peripheral and central olfactory level independently of the mating status. Contrarily, heptanal-responding olfactory receptor neurons are not influenced by pheromone in a mixture, although some post-mating modulation occurs at the input of the sexually isomorphic ordinary glomeruli, where general odours are processed within the antennal lobe. The results are discussed in the context of mate localization.
Olfactory signals play a central role in the identification of a mating partner in rodents, and the behavioral response to these cues varies markedly between the sexes. As several other sexually dimorphic traits, this response is thought to differentiate as a result of exposure of the developing individual to gonadal steroids, but both the identity of the specific steroid signal and the neural structures targeted for differentiation on this particular case are largely unknown. The present review summarizes results obtained in our lab using genetic males affected by the testicular feminization syndrome (Tfm) as experimental model, and that led to the identification of a role for non-aromatized gonadal steroids acting through the androgen receptor (AR) in the differentiation of olfactory cues processing in mice. The existing literature about AR-mediated sexual differentiation of the CNS in animal models is discussed, along with potential targets for the action of non-aromatized gonadal steroids in either one of the subsystems that detect and process olfactory information in rodents.
Sexual orientation; testicular feminization; androgen insensitivity syndrome; olfactory system; sexual differentiation; androgen receptor
Recognition of conspecifics and mates is based on a variety of sensory cues that are specific to the species, sex and social status of each individual. The courtship and mating activity of Drosophila melanogaster flies is thought to depend on the olfactory perception of a male-specific volatile pheromone, cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), and the gustatory perception of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHs), some of which are sexually dimorphic. Using two complementary sampling methods (headspace Solid Phase Micro-Extraction [SPME] and solvent extraction) coupled with GC-MS analysis, we measured the dispersion of pheromonal CHs in the air and on the substrate around the fly. We also followed the variations in CHs that were induced by social and sexual interactions. We found that all CHs present on the fly body were deposited as a thin layer on the substrate, whereas only a few of these molecules were also detected in the air. Moreover, social experience during early adult development and in mature flies strongly affected male volatile CHs but not cVA, whereas sexual interaction only had a moderate influence on dispersed CHs. Our study suggests that, in addition to their role as contact cues, CHs can influence fly behavior at a distance and that volatile, deposited and body pheromonal CHs participate in a three-step recognition of the chemical identity and social status of insects.
Recognizing the individual and sexual identities of conspecifics is critical for adaptive social behavior and, in most mammals this information is communicated primarily by chemosensory cues. Due to its heavy reliance on odor cues, we have used the Syrian hamster as our model species for investigating the neural regulation of social recognition. Using lesion, electrophysiological and immunocytochemical techniques, separate neural pathways underlying recognition of individual odors and guidance of sex-typical responses to opposite-sex odors have been identified in both male and female hamsters. Specifically, we have found that recognition of individual odor identity requires olfactory bulb connections to entorhinal cortex (ENT) rather than other chemoreceptive brain regions. This kind of social memory does not appear to require the hippocampus and may, instead, depend on ENT connections with piriform cortex. In contrast, sexual recognition, through either differential investigation or scent marking toward opposite-sex odors, depends on both olfactory and vomeronasal system input to the corticomedial amygdala. Preference for investigating opposite-sex odors requires primarily olfactory input to the medial amygdala (ME) whereas appropriately targeted scent marking responses require vomeronasal input to ME as well as to other structures. Within the ME, the anterior section (MEa) appears important for evaluating or classifying social odors whereas the posterodorsal region (MEpd) may be more involved in generating approach to social odors. Evidence is presented that analysis of social odors may initially be done in MEa and then communicated to MEpd, perhaps through micro-circuits that separately process male and female odors.
Olfaction; Scent marking; Attraction; Odor; Pheromone
Antennal olfaction is extremely important for insect survival, mediating key behaviors such as host preference, mate choice, and oviposition site selection. Multiple antennal proteins are involved in olfactory signal transduction pathways. Of these, odorant receptors (ORs) and ionotropic receptors (IRs) confer specificity on olfactory sensory neuron responses. In this study, we identified the olfactory gene repertoire of the economically important agricultural pest moth, Helicoverpa armigera, by assembling the adult male and female antennal transcriptomes. Within the male and female antennal transcriptomes we identified a total of 47 OR candidate genes containing 6 pheromone receptor candidates. Additionally, 12 IR genes as well as 26 odorant-binding proteins and 12 chemosensory proteins were annotated. Our results allow a systematic functional analysis across much of conventional ORs repertoire and newly reported IRs mediating the key olfaction-mediated behaviors of H. armigera.
The molecular and cellular events mediating complex behaviors in animals are largely unknown. Elucidating the circuits underlying behaviors in simple model systems may shed light on how these circuits function. In Drosophila, courtship behavior provides a tractable model for studying the underlying basis of innate behavior. The male-specific pheromone 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) modulates courtship behavior and is detected by T1 neurons, located on the antenna of male and female flies. The T1 neurons express the odorant receptor Or67d, and are exquisitely tuned to cVA pheromone. However, cVA-induced changes in mating behavior have also been reported upon manipulation of olfactory neurons expressing odorant receptor Or65a. These findings raise the issue of whether multiple olfactory-driven circuits underlie cVA-induced behavioral responses, and what role these circuits play in behavior. Here, we engineered flies in which the Or67d circuit is specifically activated in the absence of cVA in order to determine the role of this circuit in behavior. We created transgenic flies that express a dominant-active, pheromone-independent variant of the extracellular pheromone receptor, LUSH. We found that, similar to the behaviors elicited by cVA, engineered male flies have dramatically reduced courtship, while engineered females showed enhanced courtship. Furthermore, cVA exposure did not enhance the dominant LUSH-triggered effects on behavior in the engineered flies. Finally, we show the effects of both cVA and dominant LUSH on courtship are reversed by genetically removing Or67d. These findings demonstrate that the T1/Or67d circuit is necessary and sufficient to mediate sexually dimorphic courtship behaviors.
lush; Or67d; cVA; courtship; pheromone; olfaction
Cholinergic inputs to cortical processing networks have long been associated with attentional and top-down processing. Experimental and theoretical studies suggest that cholinergic inputs to the main olfactory bulb (OB) can modulate both neural and behavioral odor discrimination. Previous experiments from our laboratory and others demonstrate that blockade of nicotinic receptors directly impairs olfactory discrimination, whereas blockade of muscarinic receptors only measurably impairs olfactory perception when task demands are made more challenging, such as when very low-concentration odors are used or rats are required to maintain sensory memory over long durations. To further investigate the role of muscarinic signaling in the OB, we developed an olfactory delayed match-to-sample task using a digging-based behavioral paradigm. We find that rats are able to maintain robust short-term odor memory for 10–100 s. To investigate the role of muscarinic signaling in task performance, we bilaterally infused scopolamine into the OB. We find that high dosages of scopolamine (38 mM) impair performance on the task across all delays tested, including the baseline condition with no delay, whereas lower dosages (7.6 mM and 22.8 mM) had no measureable effects. These results indicate that general execution of the match-to-sample task, even with no delay, is at least partially dependent on muscarinic signaling in the OB.
acetylcholine; scopolamine; delayed match-to-sample; olfactory bulb; olfaction
Odors are key sensory signals for social communication and food search in animals including insects. Drosophila melanogaster, is a powerful neurogenetic model commonly used to reveal molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in odorant detection. Males use olfaction together with other sensory modalities to find their mates. Here, we review known olfactory signals, their related olfactory receptors, and the corresponding neuronal architecture impacting courtship. OR67d receptor detects 11-cis-Vaccenyl Acetate (cVA), a male specific pheromone transferred to the female during copulation. Transferred cVA is able to reduce female attractiveness for other males after mating, and is also suspected to decrease male-male courtship. cVA can also serve as an aggregation signal, maybe through another OR. OR47b was shown to be activated by fly odors, and to enhance courtship depending on taste pheromones. IR84a detects phenylacetic acid (PAA) and phenylacetaldehyde (PA). These two odors are not pheromones produced by flies, but are present in various fly food sources. PAA enhances male courtship, acting as a food aphrodisiac. Drosophila males have thus developed complementary olfactory strategies to help them to select their mates.
courtship; Drosophila; olfaction; receptor; nervous system
Sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone are essential for sexually dimorphic behaviors in vertebrates. However, the hormone-activated molecular mechanisms that control the development and function of the underlying neural circuits remain poorly defined. We have identified numerous sexually dimorphic gene expression patterns in the adult mouse hypothalamus and amygdala. We find that adult sex hormones regulate these expression patterns in a sex-specific, regionally-restricted manner, suggesting that these genes regulate sex typical behaviors. Indeed, we find that mice with targeted disruptions of each of four of these genes (Brs3, Cckar, Irs4, Sytl4) exhibit extremely specific deficits in sex specific behaviors, with single genes controlling the pattern or extent of male sexual behavior, male aggression, maternal behavior, or female sexual behavior. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that various components of sexually dimorphic behaviors are governed by separable genetic programs.
Birds are anosmic or at best microsmatic… This misbelief persisted until very recently and has strongly influenced the outcome of communication studies in birds, with olfaction remaining neglected as compared to acoustic and visual channels. However, there is now clear empirical evidence showing that olfaction is perfectly functional in birds and birds use olfactory information in a variety of ethological contexts. Although the existence of pheromones has never been formally demonstrated in this vertebrate class, different groups of birds, such as petrels, auklets and ducks have been shown to produce specific scents that could play a significant role in within-species social interactions. Behavioral experiments have indeed demonstrated that these odors influence the behavior of conspecifics. Additionally, in quail, deprivation of olfactory inputs decreases neuronal activation induced by sexual interactions with a female. It seems therefore well established that birds enjoy a functional sense of smell and a fast growing body of experimental evidence suggests that they use this channel of olfactory communication to control their social life. The unequivocal identification of an avian pheromone is, however, still ahead of us but there are now many exciting opportunities to unravel the behavioral and physiological particularities of chemical communication in birds.
avian olfaction; ducks; Japanese quail; Procellariiforms; auklets; immediate early gene; kin recognition; sex recognition; homing; self-odor; MHC; chemosensory information
We asked whether odor discrimination abilities are sexually dimorphic in mice and, if so, whether the perinatal actions of estradiol contribute to these sex differences. The ability to discriminate different types of urinary odors was compared in male and female wild-type (WT) subjects and in mice with a homozygous-null mutation of the estrogen synthetic enzyme, aromatase (aromatase knockout; ArKO). Olfactory discrimination was assessed in WT and ArKO male and female mice after they were gonadectomized in adulthood and subsequently treated with estradiol benzoate. A liquid olfactometer was used to assess food-motivated olfactory discrimination capacity. All animals eventually learned to distinguish between urinary odors collected from gonadally intact males and estrous females; however, WT males as well as ArKO mice of both sexes learned this discrimination significantly more rapidly than WT females. Similar group differences were obtained when mice discriminated between urinary odors collected from gonadally intact vs. castrated males or between two non-social odorants, amyl and butyl acetate. When subjects had to discriminate volatile urinary odors from ovariectomized female mice treated with estradiol sequenced with progesterone versus estradiol alone, ArKO females quickly acquired the task whereas WT males and females as well as ArKO males failed to do so. These results demonstrated a strong sex dimorphism in olfactory discrimination ability, with WT males performing better than females. Furthermore, female ArKO mice showed an enhanced ability to discriminate very similar urinary odorants, perhaps due to an increased sensitivity of the main olfactory nervous system to adult estradiol treatment as a result of perinatal estrogen deprivation.
Estrogens; Sex differences; Olfaction; Odor discrimination; Learning
The nervous system (both central and peripheral) is anatomically and physiologically differentiated between the sexes, ranging from gender-based differences in the cerebral cortex to motoneuron number in the spinal cord. Although genetic factors may play a role in the development of some sexually differentiated traits, most identified sex differences in the brain and behavior are produced under the influence of perinatal sex steroid signaling. In many species, the ability to display an estrogen-induced luteinizing hormone (LH) surge is sexually differentiated, yet the specific neural population(s) that allows females but not males to display such estrogen-mediated “positive feedback” has remained elusive. Recently, the Kiss1/kisspeptin system has been implicated in generating the sexually-dimorphic circuitry underlying the LH surge. Specifically, Kiss1 gene expression and kisspeptin protein levels in the anteroventral periventricular (AVPV) nucleus of the hypothalamus are sexually differentiated, with females displaying higher levels than males, even under identical hormonal conditions as adults. These findings, in conjunction with accumulating evidence implicating kisspeptins as potent secretagogues of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), suggest that the sex-specific display of the LH surge (positive feedback) reflects sexual differentiation of AVPV Kiss1 neurons. In addition, developmental kisspeptin signaling via its receptor GPR54 appears to be critical in males for the proper sexual differentiation of a variety of sexually dimorphic traits, ranging from complex social behavior to specific forebrain and spinal cord neuronal populations. This review discusses the recent data, and their implications, regarding the bidirectional relationship between the Kiss1 system and the process of sexual differentiation.
metastin; kisspeptin; Kiss1; GPR54; sexual differentiation; sex differences; AVPV; tyrosine hydroxylase; development
Odorant-Degrading Enzymes (ODEs) are supposed to be involved in the signal inactivation step within the olfactory sensilla of insects by quickly removing odorant molecules from the vicinity of the olfactory receptors. Only three ODEs have been both identified at the molecular level and functionally characterized: two were specialized in the degradation of pheromone compounds and the last one was shown to degrade a plant odorant.
Previous work has shown that the antennae of the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis, a worldwide pest of agricultural crops, express numerous candidate ODEs. We focused on an esterase overexpressed in males antennae, namely SlCXE7. We studied its expression patterns and tested its catalytic properties towards three odorants, i.e. the two female sex pheromone components and a green leaf volatile emitted by host plants.
SlCXE7 expression was concomitant during development with male responsiveness to odorants and during adult scotophase with the period of male most active sexual behaviour. Furthermore, SlCXE7 transcription could be induced by male exposure to the main pheromone component, suggesting a role of Pheromone-Degrading Enzyme. Interestingly, recombinant SlCXE7 was able to efficiently hydrolyze the pheromone compounds but also the plant volatile, with a higher affinity for the pheromone than for the plant compound. In male antennae, SlCXE7 expression was associated with both long and short sensilla, tuned to sex pheromones or plant odours, respectively. Our results thus suggested that a same ODE could have a dual function depending of it sensillar localisation. Within the pheromone-sensitive sensilla, SlCXE7 may play a role in pheromone signal termination and in reduction of odorant background noise, whereas it could be involved in plant odorant inactivation within the short sensilla.
Reproductive behavior in male rodents is made up of anticipatory and consummatory elements which are regulated in the brain by sensory systems, reward circuits and hormone signaling. Gonadal steroids play a key role in the regulation of male sexual behavior via steroid receptors in the hypothalamus and preoptic area. Typical patterns of male reproductive behavior have been characterized, however these are not fixed but are modulated by adult experience. We assessed the effects of repeated sexual experience on male reproductive behavior of C57BL/6 mice; including measures of olfactory investigation of females, mounting, intromission and ejaculation. The effects of sexual experience on the number of cells expressing either androgen receptor (AR) or estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) in the primary brain nuclei regulating male sexual behavior was also measured. Sexually experienced male mice engaged in less sniffing of females before initiating sexual behavior and exhibited shorter latencies to mount and intromit, increased frequency of intromission, and increased duration of intromission relative to mounting. No changes in numbers of ERα-positive cells were observed, however sexually experienced males had increased numbers of AR-positive cells in the medial preoptic area (MPOA); the primary regulatory nucleus for male sexual behavior. These results indicate that sexual experience results in a qualitative change in male reproductive behavior in mice that is associated with increased testosterone sensitivity in the MPOA and that this nucleus may play a key integrative role in mediating the effects of sexual experience on male behavior.
reproduction; sexual behavior; sexual experience; olfaction; testosterone; androgen receptor; estrogen receptor; hypothalamus; preoptic area
Detection of specific female pheromones stimulates courtship behavior in Drosophila melanogaster males, but the chemosensory molecules, cells and mechanisms involved remain poorly understood. Here we show that ppk25, a DEG/ENaC ion channel subunit required for normal male response to females, is expressed at highest levels in a single sexually dimorphic gustatory neuron of most taste hairs on legs and wings, but not in neurons that detect courtship-inhibiting pheromones or food. Synaptic inactivation of ppk25-expressing neurons, or knockdown of ppk25 expression in all gustatory neurons significantly impairs male response to females, whereas gustatory expression of ppk25 rescues the courtship behavior of ppk25 mutant males. Remarkably, the only other detectable albeit significantly weaker expression of ppk25 occurs in olfactory neurons implicated in modulation of courtship behavior. However, expression of ppk25 in olfactory neurons is not required for male courtship under our experimental conditions. These data show that ppk25 functions specifically in peripheral taste neurons involved in activation of courtship behavior, an unexpected function for this type of channel. Furthermore, our work identifies a small subset of gustatory neurons with an essential role in activation of male courtship behavior, most likely in response to female pheromones.
Differentiation of the brain during development leads to sexually dimorphic adult reproductive behavior and other neural sex dimorphisms. Genetic mechanisms independent of steroid hormones produced by the gonads have recently been suggested to partly explain these dimorphisms.
Using cDNA microarrays and real-time PCR we found gene expression differences between the male and female embryonic brain (or whole head) that may be independent of morphological differentiation of the gonads. Genes located on the sex chromosomes (ZZ in males and ZW in females) were common among the differentially expressed genes, several of which (WPKCI-8, HINT, MHM non-coding RNA) have previously been implicated in avian sex determination. A majority of the identified genes were more highly expressed in males. Three of these genes (CDK7, CCNH and BTF2-P44) encode subunits of the transcription factor IIH complex, indicating a role for this complex in neuronal differentiation.
In conclusion, this study provides novel insights into sexually dimorphic gene expression in the embryonic chicken brain and its possible involvement in sex differentiation of the nervous system in birds.
While it is now established that sensory neurons in both the main olfactory epithelium and the vomeronasal organ may be activated by both general and pheromonal odorants, it remains unclear what initiates sampling by the VNO. Anterograde transport of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase was used to determine that adequate intranasal syringing with zinc sulfate interrupted all inputs to the main olfactory bulb but left intact those to the accessory olfactory bulb. Adult male treated mice were frankly anosmic when tested with pheromonal and non-pheromonal odors and failed to engage in aggressive behavior. Treated juvenile females failed to show puberty acceleration subsequent to exposure to bedding from adult males. Activation of the immediate early gene c-Fos and electro-vomeronasogram recording confirmed the integrity of the vomeronasal system in zinc sulfate treated mice. These results support the hypothesis that odor detection by the main olfactory epithelium is required to initiate sampling by the vomeronasal system.
vomeronasal organ; accessory olfactory bulb; main olfactory bulb; odor detection
Previous studies showed that bilateral lesions of the male ferret’s preoptic area/anterior hypothalamus (POA/AH), centered in the sexually dimorphic nuclei present in this region, caused subjects to seek out a same-sex male, as opposed to a female conspecific. Male subjects with POA/AH lesions (which were also castrated and given estradiol) displayed female-typical receptive behavior in response to neck gripping by a stimulus male, implying that subjects’ approaches to a same-sex conspecific were sexually motivated. We asked whether the effect of POA/AH lesions on males’ partner preference reflects a shift in the central processing of body odorant cues so that males come to display a female-typical preference to approach male body odorants. Sexually experienced male ferrets in which electrolytic lesions of the POA/AH caused bilateral damage to the sexually dimorphic male nucleus (MN) resembled sham-operated females by preferring to approach body odors emitted from anesthetized male as opposed to female stimulus ferrets confined in the goal boxes of a Y-maze. This lesion-induced shift in odor preference was correlated with a significant increase in the ability of soiled male bedding to induce a Fos response in the medial POA of males with bilateral damage to the MN-POA/AH. No such partner preference or neural Fos responses were seen in sham-operated males or in other groups of males with POA/AH lesions that either caused unilateral damage or no damage to the MN-POA/AH. Male-typical hypothalamic processing of conspecifics’ body odorants may determine males’ normal preference to seek out odors emitted by female conspecifics, leading to mating and successful reproduction.
Pheromone; Sexual behavior; Estradiol; Brain sexual differentiation
The antennal lobe (AL) of insects, like the olfactory bulb of vertebrates, is characterized by discrete modules of synaptic neuropil called glomeruli. In some insects (e.g. moths and cockroaches) a few glomeruli are sexually dimorphic and function in labeled lines for processing of sensory information about sex pheromones. Controversy still exists, however, about whether projection (output) neurons (PNs) of glomeruli in the main AL are also narrowly tuned. We examined this critical issue in the AL of the moth Manduca sexta. We used intracellular recording and staining techniques to investigate the chemosensory tuning of PNs innervating an identifiable, sexually isomorphic glomerulus, G35, in the main AL. We found that the morphological features and chemosensory tuning of G35-PNs were nearly identical in females and males. G35-PNs responded to low concentrations of the plant-derived volatile compound cis-3-hexenyl acetate (c3HA), but the sensitivity threshold of female PNs was lower than that of male PNs. The propionate and butyrate homologues of c3HA could evoke excitatory responses, but only at moderate-to-high concentrations. Other plant volatiles did not evoke responses from G35-PNs. Moreover, PNs innervating glomeruli near G35 (in females) showed little or no response to c3HA. Female G35-PNs were hyperpolarized by (±)linalool, a compound that excites PNs in an adjacent glomerulus, thus providing evidence for lateral-inhibitory interactions between glomeruli. Our results show that PNs arborizing in an identified glomerulus in the main olfactory pathway are morphologically and physiologically equivalent in both sexes and have characteristic, limited molecular receptive ranges that are highly conserved across individuals.
olfactory; glomerulus; chemosensory; microelectrode; odor; intracellular; insect
In either the vertebrate nose or the insect antenna, most olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) respond to multiple odors. However, some ORNs respond to just a single odor, or at most to a few highly related odors. It has been hypothesized that narrowly-tuned ORNs project to narrowly-tuned neurons in the brain, and that these dedicated circuits mediate innate behavioral responses to a particular ligand. Here we have investigated neural activity and behavior downstream from two narrowly-tuned ORN types in Drosophila. We found that genetically ablating either of these ORN types impairs innate behavioral attraction to their cognate ligand. Neurons in the antennal lobe postsynaptic to one of these ORN types are, like their presynaptic ORNs, narrowly tuned to a pheromone. However, neurons postsynaptic to the second ORN type are broadly tuned. These results demonstrate that some narrowly-tuned ORNs project to dedicated central circuits, ensuring a tight connection between stimulus and behavior, whereas others project to central neurons which participate in the ensemble representations of many odors.
Many aspects of social behavior are controlled by sex-specific pheromones. Gender-appropriate production of the sexually dimorphic transcription factors doublesex and fruitless controls sexual differentiation and sexual behavior. miR-124 mutant males exhibited increased male–male courtship and reduced reproductive success with females. Females showed a strong preference for wild-type males over miR-124 mutant males when given a choice of mates. These effects were traced to aberrant pheromone production. We identified the sex-specific splicing factor transformer as a functionally significant target of miR-124 in this context, suggesting a role for miR-124 in the control of male sexual differentiation and behavior, by limiting inappropriate expression of the female form of transformer. miR-124 is required to ensure fidelity of gender-appropriate pheromone production in males. Use of a microRNA provides a secondary means of controlling the cascade of sex-specific splicing events that controls sexual differentiation in Drosophila.
Like many animals, the fruit fly Drosophila uses pheromones to influence sexual behaviour, with males and females producing different versions of these chemicals. One of the pheromones produced by male flies, for example, is a chemical called 11-cis-vaccenyl-acetate (cVA), which is an aphrodisiac for female flies and an anti-aphrodisiac for males.
The production of the correct pheromones in each sex is genetically controlled using a process called splicing that allows a single gene to be expressed as two or more different proteins. A variety of proteins called splicing factors ensures that splicing results in the production of the correct pheromones for each sex. Sometimes, however, the process by which sex genes are expressed as proteins can be ‘leaky’, which results in the wrong proteins being produced for one or both sexes.
Small RNA molecules called microRNAs act in some genetic pathways to limit the leaky expression of genes, and a microRNA called miR-124 carries out this function in the developing brain Drosophila. Now, Weng et al. show that miR-124 also helps to regulate sex-specific splicing and thereby to control pheromone production and sexual behaviour.
Mutant male flies lacking miR-124 were less successful than wild-type males at mating with female flies, and were almost always rejected if a female fly was given a choice between a mutant male and a wild-type male. Moreover, both wild-type and mutant male flies were more likely to initiate courtship behaviour towards another male if it lacked miR-124 than if it did not.
The mutant male flies produced less cVA than wild-type males, but more of other pheromones called pentacosenes, which is consistent with the observed behaviour because cVA attracts females and repels males, whereas pentacosenes act as aphrodisiacs for male flies in large amounts. Weng et al. showed that these changes in the production of pheromones were caused by an increased expression of the female version of a splicing factor called transformer in the mutant males, but further work is needed to understand this process in detail.
microRNA; pheromome; behaviour; genetics; selection; evolution; D. melanogaster