Editors' ChoicePheromones

A Matter of Taste

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science's STKE  16 Sep 2003:
Vol. 2003, Issue 200, pp. tw357-TW357
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2003.200.tw357

Mating in Drosophila involves a stereotyped series of courtship behaviors in which the male fly successively orients toward the female, taps her with his foreleg, "sings," licks her, and finally attempts to copulate; courtship efficiency determines mating success. Courtship behavior is triggered by specific sensory cues, but the molecular mechanisms by which sensory stimuli are translated into behavioral responses remain unclear (see Giarratani and Vosshall). Bray and Amrein have now identified a male-specific receptor expressed in chemosensory foreleg neurons that appears to be required for efficient courtship. The authors used flies expressing the yeast transcriptional activator GAL4 under the control of the promoters of various members of a family of heterotrimeric GTP-binding protein (G protein)-coupled receptors (Gr genes) that are expressed in subsets of gustatory receptor neurons to drive expression of reporters. One gene, Gr68a, was selectively expressed in chemosensory neurons of male-specific foreleg taste bristles. Inactivation of synaptic transmission from these neurons by selective expression of the tetanus toxin light-chain protein led to reduced courtship intensity, decreased mating efficiency, and lack of success in mating when competing with wild-type males. Knockdown of the GR68a receptor through RNA interference had similar effects. By quantifying performance of the steps involved in Drosophila courtship, the authors determined that the behavioral deficit occurred after orienting but before singing. Thus, G68a appears to be required for the recognition of the nonvolatile pheromones found on the abdomen of female Drosophila, and input from these pheromones during tapping appears to be required for successful completion of courtship behavior.

S. Bray, H. Amrein, A putative Drosophila pheromone receptor expressed in male-specific taste neurons is required for efficient courtship. Neuron 39, 1019-1029 (2003). [Online Journal]

L. Giarratani, L. B. Vosshall, Toward a molecular description of pheromone perception. Neuron 39, 881-883 (2003). [Online Journal]

Related Content