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1.  Steroid Hormone Signaling Is Essential for Pheromone Production and Oenocyte Survival 
PLoS Genetics  2016;12(6):e1006126.
Many of the lipids found on the cuticles of insects function as pheromones and communicate information about age, sex, and reproductive status. In Drosophila, the composition of the information-rich lipid profile is dynamic and changes over the lifetime of an individual. However, the molecular basis of this change is not well understood. To identify genes that control cuticular lipid production in Drosophila, we performed a RNA interference screen and used Direct Analysis in Real Time and gas chromatography mass spectrometry to quantify changes in the chemical profiles. Twelve putative genes were identified whereby transcriptional silencing led to significant differences in cuticular lipid production. Amongst them, we characterized a gene which we name spidey, and which encodes a putative steroid dehydrogenase that has sex- and age-dependent effects on viability, pheromone production, and oenocyte survival. Transcriptional silencing or overexpression of spidey during embryonic development results in pupal lethality and significant changes in levels of the ecdysone metabolite 20-hydroxyecdysonic acid and 20-hydroxyecdysone. In contrast, inhibiting gene expression only during adulthood resulted in a striking loss of oenocyte cells and a concomitant reduction of cuticular hydrocarbons, desiccation resistance, and lifespan. Oenocyte loss and cuticular lipid levels were partially rescued by 20-hydroxyecdysone supplementation. Taken together, these results identify a novel regulator of pheromone synthesis and reveal that ecdysteroid signaling is essential for the maintenance of cuticular lipids and oenocytes throughout adulthood.
Author Summary
Pheromones are used by many animals to control social behaviors such as mate choice and kin recognition. The pheromone profile of insects is dynamic and can change depending on environmental, physiological, and social conditions. While many genes responsible for the biosynthesis of insect pheromones have been identified, much less is known about how pheromone production is systemically regulated over the lifetime of an animal. In this work, we identify 12 genes in Drosophila melanogaster that play a role in pheromone production. We characterized the function of one gene, which we name spidey, and which encodes a steroid dehydrogenase. Silencing spidey expression during the larval stage results in the rapid inactivation of an essential insect steroid, 20-hydroxyecdysone, and developmental arrest. In adults, spidey is needed for maintaining the viability of oenocytes, specialized cells that produce pheromones and also regulate energy homeostasis. Our work reveals a novel role for ecdysteroids in the adult animal and uncovers a regulatory mechanism for oenocyte activity. Potentially, ecdysteroid signaling serves as a mechanism by which environmental or social conditions shape pheromone production. Exploitation of this conserved pathway could be useful for interfering with the mating behavior and lifespan of disease-bearing insects or agricultural pests.
PMCID: PMC4917198  PMID: 27333054
2.  The neuropeptide tachykinin is essential for pheromone detection in a gustatory neural circuit 
eLife  null;4:e06914.
Gustatory pheromones play an essential role in shaping the behavior of many organisms. However, little is known about the processing of taste pheromones in higher order brain centers. Here, we describe a male-specific gustatory circuit in Drosophila that underlies the detection of the anti-aphrodisiac pheromone (3R,11Z,19Z)-3-acetoxy-11,19-octacosadien-1-ol (CH503). Using behavioral analysis, genetic manipulation, and live calcium imaging, we show that Gr68a-expressing neurons on the forelegs of male flies exhibit a sexually dimorphic physiological response to the pheromone and relay information to the central brain via peptidergic neurons. The release of tachykinin from 8 to 10 cells within the subesophageal zone is required for the pheromone-triggered courtship suppression. Taken together, this work describes a neuropeptide-modulated central brain circuit that underlies the programmed behavioral response to a gustatory sex pheromone. These results will allow further examination of the molecular basis by which innate behaviors are modulated by gustatory cues and physiological state.
eLife digest
In many species of animals, the male decides to pursue a potential female mate based on how she smells and tastes. Powerful chemical signals known as pheromones control this decision. When a male fruit fly mates with a female fruit fly, he often leaves behind an anti-aphrodisiac pheromone that, when males taste it, deters them from mating with the female. Until recently, however, little was known about how the brain processes information from such taste pheromones.
Now, Shankar et al. have investigated this problem in a series of experiments with normal and genetically modified flies. In the first experiment normal male flies were exposed to the chemical on its own, to the chemical on a sample of female skin, and to the chemical on actual female flies. The male flies did not respond to the pheromone on its own, but they did respond to it in the other two scenarios.
Next, Shankar et al. used genetic techniques to eliminate individual neurons in the male flies and then observed how the loss of specific neurons influenced the response of the fly to the pheromone. These experiments showed that male flies have a special group of sensory neurons in their legs that detect the chemical and then send an electrical signal to the brain. Shankar et al. then went on to identify a brain circuit consisting of 8–10 neurons that responds to this signal and to show that the release of a neurochemical called Tachykinin is essential in communicating the signal.
In a final set of experiments, Shankar et al. introduced two sensors—one in the sensory neurons in the legs, the other in the 8–10 neurons in the brain—that light up when the neurons in that region are close enough to each other to form connections. The results suggest that the sensory neurons in the legs form connections with the 8–10 neurons in the brain.
A challenge for the future is to understand how the nervous system combines different social cues and information about the physiological state of the animal, and how this influences the decision to mate.
PMCID: PMC4491540  PMID: 26083710
CH503; courtship; behavior; anti-aphrodisiac; NPF; calcium imaging; D. melanogaster
3.  Sex-specific triacylglycerides are widely conserved in Drosophila and mediate mating behavior 
eLife  2014;3:e01751.
Pheromones play an important role in the behavior, ecology, and evolution of many organisms. The structure of many insect pheromones typically consists of a hydrocarbon backbone, occasionally modified with various functional oxygen groups. Here we show that sex-specific triacylclyerides (TAGs) are broadly conserved across the subgenus Drosophila in 11 species and represent a novel class of pheromones that has been largely overlooked. In desert-adapted drosophilids, 13 different TAGs are secreted exclusively by males from the ejaculatory bulb, transferred to females during mating, and function synergistically to inhibit courtship from other males. Sex-specific TAGs are comprised of at least one short branched tiglic acid and a long linear fatty acyl component, an unusual structural motif that has not been reported before in other natural products. The diversification of chemical cues used by desert-adapted Drosophila as pheromones may be related to their specialized diet of fermenting cacti.
eLife digest
For animals, the ultimate purpose of life is to have sex, as nothing is more important than passing down your genes to future generations. A wide range of strategies are therefore employed throughout nature to maximize the chances of sexual success, from ostentatious courtship rituals to the subtle subliminal signals sent out using chemicals called pheromones. Plants and animals release pheromones to influence the behavior of other plants and animals, often without the recipient being aware of it.
Hundreds of different insect pheromones have been discovered. Fruit flies release a number of different pheromones, all with similar chemical structures. Now, Chin et al. have discovered that male flies belonging to several species of fruit fly that live in the desert release chemicals called triacylglycerides (TAGs), which are commonly used for energy storage by many organisms as pheromones. During sex, the male fly rubs the TAGs onto the body of the female, which makes her less attractive to other male flies for several hours, thus increasing his chances of parenthood and passing his genes to future generations.
TAGs are also found in other insect species, but have been largely overlooked as pheromones. Moreover, the TAGs discovered by Chin et al. have an unusual structure, not previously seen in nature, which may result from the diet of fermenting cacti the desert-dwelling fruit flies enjoy.
PMCID: PMC3948109  PMID: 24618898
ozone-induced dissociation; mass spectrometry; behavior; D. arizonae; D. mojavensis; laser desorption ionzation; D. melanogaster
4.  α2u-globulins mediate manipulation of host attractiveness in Toxoplasma gondii–Rattus novergicus association 
The ISME Journal  2015;9(9):2112-2115.
Uninfected female rats (Rattus novergicus) exhibit greater attraction to the males infected with protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. This phenomenon is contrary to the aversion towards infected males observed in multitude of other host–parasite associations. In this report, we describe a proximate mechanism for this anomaly. We demonstrate that T. gondii infection enhances hepatic production and urinary excretion of α2u-globulins in rats. We further demonstrate that α2u-globulins are sufficient to recapitulate male sexual attractiveness akin to effects of the infection. This manipulation possibly results in greater horizontal transmission of this parasite between the infected male and the uninfected female. It supports the notion that in some evolutionary niches parasites can alter host sexual signaling, likely leading to an increased rate of sexual transmission.
PMCID: PMC4542039  PMID: 25853804
5.  Endocrine remodelling of the adult intestine sustains reproduction in Drosophila 
eLife  null;4:e06930.
The production of offspring is energetically costly and relies on incompletely understood mechanisms that generate a positive energy balance. In mothers of many species, changes in key energy-associated internal organs are common yet poorly characterised functionally and mechanistically. In this study, we show that, in adult Drosophila females, the midgut is dramatically remodelled to enhance reproductive output. In contrast to extant models, organ remodelling does not occur in response to increased nutrient intake and/or offspring demands, but rather precedes them. With spatially and temporally directed manipulations, we identify juvenile hormone (JH) as an anticipatory endocrine signal released after mating. Acting through intestinal bHLH-PAS domain proteins Methoprene-tolerant (Met) and Germ cell-expressed (Gce), JH signals directly to intestinal progenitors to yield a larger organ, and adjusts gene expression and sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) activity in enterocytes to support increased lipid metabolism. Our findings identify a metabolically significant paradigm of adult somatic organ remodelling linking hormonal signals, epithelial plasticity, and reproductive output.
eLife digest
Producing offspring places extra energy demands on individuals. Female animals—which generally invest more time and resources than the males—need to ensure that sufficient nutrients reach their offspring during pregnancy and lactation. The small intestines of many female animals increase in size during this period, but it is not clear to what extent these changes help to maximise reproduction, or how they are regulated.
Reiff, Jacobson, Cognigni, Antonello et al. investigated what happens to the middle section of the gut in female fruit flies after mating. A fly's ‘midgut’ performs a similar role to the small intestine in humans and other mammals. The experiments show that mating increases the numbers of cells in the midgut so that it increases in size.
These changes are due to a hormone called ‘juvenile hormone’, which is released after the fly mates. In particular cells of the midgut, juvenile hormone also regulates some genes involved in the metabolism of lipids. If the activity of juvenile hormone is blocked in these cells, the female flies produce fewer eggs. These changes in the midgut still happen in mutant flies that cannot produce eggs and don't increase their food intake after they mate. Therefore, the changes appear to prepare flies for the increased nutritional demands rather than being caused by it.
Altogether, these findings reveal that changes in the midgut play an important role in the ability of female fruit flies to reproduce. Similar changes to the gut may also increase reproductive success in humans and other mammals. However, if the changes are maintained after reproduction, it is possible that they may contribute to weight gain and an increased risk of cancer in females after pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC4515472  PMID: 26216039
intestine; stem cells; organ plasticity; D. melanogaster
6.  miR-124 controls male reproductive success in Drosophila 
eLife  2013;2:e00640.
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.
eLife digest
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.
PMCID: PMC3679528  PMID: 23795292
microRNA; pheromome; behaviour; genetics; selection; evolution; D. melanogaster
7.  Analysis of Neuropeptide Expression and Localization in Adult Drosophila melanogaster Central Nervous System by Affinity Cell-Capture Mass Spectrometry 
Journal of proteome research  2009;8(3):1271-1284.
A combined approach using mass spectrometry, a novel neuron affinity capture technique, and Drosophila melanogaster genetic manipulation has been developed to characterize the expression and localization of neuropeptides in the adult D. melanogaster brain. In extract from the whole adult brain, 42 neuropeptides from 18 peptide families were sequenced. Neuropeptide profiling also was performed on targeted populations of cells which were enriched with immunoaffinity purification using a genetically expressed marker.
PMCID: PMC2693453  PMID: 19199706
neuropeptide; Drosophila; mass spectrometry; MALDI-TOF; biogenic amine; dopamine; serotonin
8.  The fatty acid elongase Bond is essential for Drosophila sex pheromone synthesis and male fertility 
Nature Communications  2015;6:8263.
Insects use a spectacular variety of chemical signals to guide their social behaviours. How such chemical diversity arises is a long-standing problem in evolutionary biology. Here we describe the contribution of the fatty acid elongase Bond to both pheromone diversity and male fertility in Drosophila. Genetic manipulation and mass spectrometry analysis reveal that the loss of bond eliminates the male sex pheromone (3R,11Z,19Z)-3-acetoxy-11,19-octacosadien-1-ol (CH503). Unexpectedly, silencing bond expression severely suppresses male fertility and the fertility of conspecific rivals. These deficits are rescued on ectopic expression of bond in the male reproductive system. A comparative analysis across six Drosophila species shows that the gain of a novel transcription initiation site is correlated with bond expression in the ejaculatory bulb, a primary site of male pheromone production. Taken together, these results indicate that modification of cis-regulatory elements and subsequent changes in gene expression pattern is one mechanism by which pheromone diversity arises.
Insect behaviours are often guided by chemical signals, but little is known about how pheromone diversity evolves. Here the authors show that loss of the gene bond in Drosophila eliminates the sex pheromone CH503, while silencing it reduces the fertility of males and their conspecific rivals.
PMCID: PMC4579836  PMID: 26369287
9.  Increase in cellular triacylglycerol content and emergence of large ER-associated lipid droplets in the absence of CDP-DG synthase function 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2014;25(25):4083-4095.
Cds1 is an evolutionarily conserved CDP-DG synthase. Fission yeast are used to demonstrate that cells deficient in its function exhibit markedly increased triacylglycerol content and assemble unusual ER-associated lipid droplets that recruit the triacylglycerol synthesis machinery and grow by expansion.
Excess fatty acids and sterols are stored as triacylglycerols and sterol esters in specialized cellular organelles, called lipid droplets. Understanding what determines the cellular amount of neutral lipids and their packaging into lipid droplets is of fundamental and applied interest. Using two species of fission yeast, we show that cycling cells deficient in the function of the ER-resident CDP-DG synthase Cds1 exhibit markedly increased triacylglycerol content and assemble large lipid droplets closely associated with the ER membranes. We demonstrate that these unusual structures recruit the triacylglycerol synthesis machinery and grow by expansion rather than by fusion. Our results suggest that interfering with the CDP-DG route of phosphatidic acid utilization rewires cellular metabolism to adopt a triacylglycerol-rich lifestyle reliant on the Kennedy pathway.
PMCID: PMC4263451  PMID: 25318672
10.  Drosophila lifespan and physiology are modulated by sexual perception and reward 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2013;343(6170):544-548.
Sensory perception modulates aging and physiology across taxa. We found that perception of female sexual pheromones through a specific gustatory receptor expressed in a subset of foreleg neurons in male fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, rapidly and reversibly decreases fat stores, reduces resistance to starvation, and limits lifespan together with neurons that express the reward-mediating neuropeptide F. High-throughput RNA-seq experiments revealed a set of molecular processes that were impacted by the activity of the longevity circuit, thereby identifying new candidate cell non-autonomous aging mechanisms. Mating reversed the effects of pheromone perception, suggesting a model where lifespan is modulated through integration of sensory and reward circuits and where healthy aging may be compromised when the expectations defined by sensory perception are discordant with ensuing experience.
PMCID: PMC4042187  PMID: 24292624
11.  Dietary Effects on Cuticular Hydrocarbons and Sexual Attractiveness in Drosophila 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e49799.
Dietary composition is known to have profound effects on many aspects of animal physiology, including lifespan, general health, and reproductive potential. We have previously shown that aging and insulin signaling significantly influence the composition and sexual attractiveness of Drosophila melanogaster female cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), some of which are known to be sex pheromones. Because diet is intimately linked to aging and to the activity of nutrient-sensing pathways, we asked how diet affects female CHCs and attractiveness. Here we report consistent and significant effects of diet composition on female CHC profiles across ages, with dietary yeast and sugar driving CHC changes in opposite directions. Surprisingly, however, we found no evidence that these changes affect female attractiveness. Multivariate comparisons among responses of CHC profiles to diet, aging, and insulin signaling suggest that diet may alter the levels of some CHCs in a way that results in profiles that are more attractive while simultaneously altering other CHCs in a way that makes them less attractive. For example, changes in short-chain CHCs induced by a high-yeast diet phenocopy changes caused by aging and by decreased insulin signaling, both of which result in less attractive females. On the other hand, changes in long-chain CHCs in response to the same diet result in levels that are comparable to those observed in attractive young females and females with increased insulin signaling. The effects of a high-sugar diet tend in the opposite direction, as levels of short-chain CHCs resemble those in attractive females with increased insulin signaling and changes in long-chain CHCs are similar to those caused by decreased insulin signaling. Together, these data suggest that diet-dependent changes in female CHCs may be sending conflicting messages to males.
PMCID: PMC3515564  PMID: 23227150
12.  Insulin Signaling Mediates Sexual Attractiveness in Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(4):e1002684.
Sexually attractive characteristics are often thought to reflect an individual's condition or reproductive potential, but the underlying molecular mechanisms through which they do so are generally unknown. Insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling (IIS) is known to modulate aging, reproduction, and stress resistance in several species and to contribute to variability of these traits in natural populations. Here we show that IIS determines sexual attractiveness in Drosophila through transcriptional regulation of genes involved in the production of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC), many of which function as pheromones. Using traditional gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) together with newly introduced laser desorption/ionization orthogonal time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LDI-MS) we establish that CHC profiles are significantly affected by genetic manipulations that target IIS. Manipulations that reduce IIS also reduce attractiveness, while females with increased IIS are significantly more attractive than wild-type animals. IIS effects on attractiveness are mediated by changes in CHC profiles. Insulin signaling influences CHC through pathways that are likely independent of dFOXO and that may involve the nutrient-sensing Target of Rapamycin (TOR) pathway. These results suggest that the activity of conserved molecular regulators of longevity and reproductive output may manifest in different species as external characteristics that are perceived as honest indicators of fitness potential.
Author Summary
In nature, a myriad of specialized traits have evolved that are used for intraspecific communication and mate choice. We postulated that certain traits may have evolved to be attractive by virtue of their accurate representation of molecular pathways that are critical for determining evolutionary fitness. Insulin signaling (IIS) is one such pathway. It has been shown to modulate aging, reproduction, and stress resistance in several species and to contribute to variability of these traits in natural populations. We therefore asked whether IIS affected key sexual characteristics and overall attractiveness in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. We found that IIS regulates cuticular hydrocarbons (the key pheromones in flies), that reduced IIS also reduced attractiveness, and that flies with increased IIS were significantly more attractive than wild-type animals. Further experiments revealed that these effects may also be influenced by a second conserved nutrient-sensitive pathway, the TOR pathway. We suggest that natural selection may have favored a plethora of species-specific sexual characteristics because they accurately represent a small number of influential pathways that determine longevity and reproductive output across taxa. In other words, it may be that, whether fly or human, beauty is more than skin-deep.
PMCID: PMC3343104  PMID: 22570625
14.  Male-Specific Transfer and Fine Scale Spatial Differences of Newly Identified Cuticular Hydrocarbons and Triacylglycerides in a Drosophila Species Pair 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16898.
We analyzed epicuticular hydrocarbon variation in geographically isolated populations of D. mojavensis cultured on different rearing substrates and a sibling species, D. arizonae, with ultraviolet laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (UV-LDI MS). Different body parts, i.e. legs, proboscis, and abdomens, of both species showed qualitatively similar hydrocarbon profiles consisting mainly of long-chain monoenes, dienes, trienes, and tetraenes. However, D. arizonae had higher amounts of most hydrocarbons than D. mojavensis and females of both species exhibited greater hydrocarbon amounts than males. Hydrocarbon profiles of D. mojavensis populations were significantly influenced by sex and rearing substrates, and differed between body parts. Lab food–reared flies had lower amounts of most hydrocarbons than flies reared on fermenting cactus substrates. We discovered 48 male- and species-specific hydrocarbons ranging in size from C22 to C50 in the male anogenital region of both species, most not described before. These included several oxygen-containing hydrocarbons in addition to high intensity signals corresponding to putative triacylglycerides, amounts of which were influenced by larval rearing substrates. Some of these compounds were transferred to female cuticles in high amounts during copulation. This is the first study showing that triacylglycerides may be a separate class of courtship-related signaling molecules in drosophilids. This study also extends the kind and number of epicuticular hydrocarbons in these species and emphasizes the role of larval ecology in influencing amounts of these compounds, many of which mediate courtship success within and between species.
PMCID: PMC3038915  PMID: 21369358
15.  Correction: Pheromonal and Behavioral Cues Trigger Male-to-Female Aggression in Drosophila 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(12):10.1371/annotation/1c19d040-9f9f-4b9f-b678-70f1fe387192.
PMCID: PMC2997046
16.  Pheromonal and Behavioral Cues Trigger Male-to-Female Aggression in Drosophila 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(11):e1000541.
By genetically manipulating both pheromonal profiles and behavioral patterns, we find that Drosophila males showed a complete reversal in their patterns of aggression towards other males and females
Appropriate displays of aggression rely on the ability to recognize potential competitors. As in most species, Drosophila males fight with other males and do not attack females. In insects, sex recognition is strongly dependent on chemosensory communication, mediated by cuticular hydrocarbons acting as pheromones. While the roles of chemical and other sensory cues in stimulating male to female courtship have been well characterized in Drosophila, the signals that elicit aggression remain unclear. Here we show that when female pheromones or behavior are masculinized, males recognize females as competitors and switch from courtship to aggression. To masculinize female pheromones, a transgene carrying dsRNA for the sex determination factor transformer (traIR) was targeted to the pheromone producing cells, the oenocytes. Shortly after copulation males attacked these females, indicating that pheromonal cues can override other sensory cues. Surprisingly, masculinization of female behavior by targeting traIR to the nervous system in an otherwise normal female also was sufficient to trigger male aggression. Simultaneous masculinization of both pheromones and behavior induced a complete switch in the normal male response to a female. Control males now fought rather than copulated with these females. In a reciprocal experiment, feminization of the oenocytes and nervous system in males by expression of transformer (traF) elicited high levels of courtship and little or no aggression from control males. Finally, when confronted with flies devoid of pheromones, control males attacked male but not female opponents, suggesting that aggression is not a default behavior in the absence of pheromonal cues. Thus, our results show that masculinization of either pheromones or behavior in females is sufficient to trigger male-to-female aggression. Moreover, by manipulating both the pheromonal profile and the fighting patterns displayed by the opponent, male behavioral responses towards males and females can be completely reversed. Therefore, both pheromonal and behavioral cues are used by Drosophila males in recognizing a conspecific as a competitor.
Author Summary
As in other species, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster uses chemical signals in the form of pheromones to recognize the species and sex of another individual. Males typically fight with other males and do not attack females. While the roles of pheromonal and other sensory cues in stimulating courtship towards females have been extensively studied, the signals that elicit aggression towards other males remain unclear. In this work, we use genetic tools to show that masculinization of female pheromones is sufficient to trigger aggression from wild type males towards females. Surprisingly, males also attacked females that displayed male patterns of aggression, even if they show normal female pheromonal profiles, indicating that pheromones are not the only cues important for identifying another animal as an opponent. By simultaneously manipulating pheromones and behavioral patterns of opponents, we can completely switch the behavioral response of males towards females and males. These results demonstrate that not only pheromonal but also behavioral cues can serve as triggers of aggression, underlining the importance of behavioral feedback in the manifestation of social behaviors.
PMCID: PMC2990703  PMID: 21124886
17.  A new male sex-pheromone and novel cuticular cues for chemical communication in Drosophila 
Current biology : CB  2009;19(15):1245-1254.
In many insect species, cuticular hydrocarbons serve as pheromones that can mediate complex social behaviors. In Drosophila melanogaster, several hydrocarbons including the male sex pheromone 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) and female-specific 7,11-dienes influence courtship behavior and can function as cues for short-term memory associated with the mating experience. Behavioral and physiological studies suggest that other unidentified chemical communication cues are likely to exist. To more fully characterize the hydrocarbon profile of the D. melanogaster cuticle, we applied direct ultraviolet laser desorption/ionization orthogonal time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UV-LDI-o-TOF MS) and analyzed the surface of intact fruit flies at a spatial resolution of approximately 200 μm.
We report the chemical and spatial characterization of 28 species of cuticular hydrocarbons, including a new major class of oxygen-containing compounds. Using UV-LDI MS, pheromones previously shown to be expressed exclusively by one sex, e.g. cVA, 7,11-heptacosadiene, and 7,11-nonacosadiene, appear to be found on both male and female flies. In males, cVA co-localizes at the tip of the ejaculatory bulb with a second acetylated hydrocarbon named CH503. We describe the chemical structure of CH503 as 3-O-acetyl-1,3-dihydroxy-octacosa-11,19-diene and show one behavioral role for this compound as a long-lived inhibitor of male courtship. Like cVA, CH503 is transferred from males to females during mating. Unlike cVA, CH503 remains on the surface of females for at least 10 days.
Oxygenated hydrocarbons comprise one major previously undescribed class of compounds on the Drosophila cuticular surface. In addition to cVA, a newly-discovered long chain acetate, CH503, serves as a mediator of courtship-related chemical communication.
PMCID: PMC2726907  PMID: 19615904

Results 1-17 (17)