Regulation by male-specific fruitless of neural circuitry used during courtship and copulation behavior in Drosophila melanogaster Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/b2773z595

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  • Courtship and copulation behaviors in Drosophila melanogaster males are regulated by sex-specific products from the gene fruitless (fru). Male-specific FRU proteins (FRU[superscript M]) are putative transcription factors of the BTB-ZnF family that likely act by controlling development and maintenance of the neural circuitry used during male sexual behavior. However, which neuronal characteristics are regulated by FRU[superscript M] is mostly unknown and how FRU[superscript M] neurons are grouped into circuits and the role that specific neuronal circuits play in sexual behavior has not been elucidated. I have identified a subset of FRU[superscript M] neurons that co-express the transcription factor, Engrailed (En). After fru[superscript M]-RNAi-induced targeted removal of FRU[superscript M] proteins from FRU[superscript M]/En neurons, males were impaired in their ability to initiate or maintain copulation. Further, I examined two characteristics, the initial projections and neurotransmitters used by FRU[superscript M]/En neurons. Males and females showed a difference in the neurochemistry of FRU[superscript M]/En neurons in the thoracic ganglia; this neurochemistry is disrupted in fru mutant males. For one cohort of serotonergic neurons in the abdominal ganglion that were previously shown to be dependent on FRU[superscript M] for expression of serotonin, I determined that FRU[superscript M] works in conjunction with other sex-specific genes, TAKEOUT (TO) and DOUBLESEX (DSX), to induce of serotonin expression in males; in females serotonin expression is repressed by DSX and TO. Finally, I performed a genetic screen for genes that interact with, or are downstream targets of, fru, dsx, or dissatisfaction (dsf). I assessed fertility, copulation success, and abdominal muscle development of EMS-mutagenized flies, resulting in one fly line in which homozygous mutant animals had a novel muscle phenotype. By genetic tests, the mutation was found to be allelic to string, which encodes a Cdc25- like phosphatase. Taken together, my research demonstrates that subsets of FRU[superscript M] neurons function in circumscribed circuits to regulate specific portions of sexual behavior, and that FRU[superscript M], along with other sex-specific genes, controls development of these neurons in part by determining neurochemistry. Further, FRU[superscript M] likely directs multiple downstream targets, in different subsets of neurons in which it is expressed, which collectively provide correct development of neural circuits underlying courtship and copulation behavior.
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