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Animals must express the appropriate behavior that meets their most pressing physiological needs and their environmental context. However, it is currently unclear how alternative behavioral options are evaluated and appropriate actions are prioritized. Here, we describe how fruit flies choose between feeding and courtship; two behaviors necessary for survival and reproduction. We show that sex- and food-deprived male flies prioritize feeding over courtship initiation, and manipulation of food quality or the animal's internal state fine-tunes this decision. We identify the tyramine signaling pathway as an essential mediator of this decision. Tyramine biosynthesis is regulated by the fly's nutritional state and acts as a satiety signal, favoring courtship over feeding. Tyramine inhibits a subset of feeding-promoting tyramine receptor (TyrR)-expressing neurons and activates P1 neurons, a known command center for courtship. Conversely, the perception of a nutritious food source activates TyrR neurons and inhibits P1 neurons. Therefore, TyrR and P1 neurons are oppositely modulated by starvation, via tyramine levels, and food availability. We propose that antagonistic co-regulation of neurons controlling alternative actions is key to prioritizing competing drives in a context- dependent manner.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Biol

Publication Date





4231 - 4245.e4


Drosophila, action selection, courtship, decision-making, feeding, mating, motivation, sensory conflict, tyramine, Animals, Courtship, Drosophila, Drosophila Proteins, Drosophila melanogaster, Male, Neurons, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Tyramine