BACKGROUND: After mating, Drosophila females undergo a remarkable phenotypic switch resulting in decreased sexual receptivity and increased egg laying. Transfer of male sex peptide (SP) during copulation mediates these postmating responses via sensory neurons that coexpress the sex-determination gene fruitless (fru) and the proprioceptive neuronal marker pickpocket (ppk) in the female reproductive system. Little is known about the neuronal pathways involved in relaying SP-sensory information to central circuits and how these inputs are processed to direct female-specific changes that occur in response to mating. RESULTS: We demonstrate an essential role played by neurons expressing the sex-determination gene doublesex (dsx) in regulating the female postmating response. We uncovered shared circuitry between dsx and a subset of the previously described SP-responsive fru(+)/ppk(+)-expressing neurons in the reproductive system. In addition, we identified sexually dimorphic dsx circuitry within the abdominal ganglion (Abg) critical for mediating postmating responses. Some of these dsx neurons target posterior regions of the brain while others project onto the uterus. CONCLUSIONS: We propose that dsx-specified circuitry is required to induce female postmating behavioral responses, from sensing SP to conveying this signal to higher-order circuits for processing and through to the generation of postmating behavioral and physiological outputs.
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Animals, Animals, Genetically Modified, Brain, Cell Membrane, Copulation, DNA-Binding Proteins, Drosophila Proteins, Drosophila melanogaster, Female, Ganglion Cysts, Gene Expression Regulation, Male, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Peptides, Receptors, Peptide, Sensory Receptor Cells, Sex Differentiation, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Transcription Factors, Uterus