Editors' ChoiceReproductive Biology

Battle of the Sexes

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Sci. Signal.  04 Feb 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 311, pp. ec31
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005144

In many species, males compete with one another to propagate their own DNA, often to the detriment of females (see the Perspective by Promislow and Kaeberlein). Shi and Murphy discovered that mating in Caenorhabditis species causes mothers to shrink and die soon after they have ceased producing progeny. Males appear to hijack the longevity and stress resistance pathways normally employed by the mothers to slow reproduction and somatic aging in times of stress. Maures et al. explored why the presence of abundant mating-competent males causes a decrease in the life span of nematodes of the opposite sex and found that a secreted substance, possibly a pheromone, reproduced the effect of the males when transferred in the culture medium. Detection of pheromones from a female fruit fly is enough to cause changes in metabolism, reduce resistance to starvation, and shorten the life span of male flies. Gendron et al. report that the signals from the female appear to be recognized by sensory receptors on the legs of male flies.

C. M. Gendron, T.-H. Kuo, Z. M. Harvanek, B. Y. Chung, J. Y. Yew, H. A. Dierick, S. D. Pletcher, Drosophila life span and physiology are modulated by sexual perception and reward. Science 343, 544–548 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]

T. J. Maures, L. N. Booth, B. A. Benayoun, Y. Izrayelit, F. C. Schroeder, A. Brunet, Males shorten the life span of C. elegans hermaphrodites via secreted compounds. Science 343, 541–544 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]

C. Shi, C. T. Murphy, Mating induces shrinking and death in Caenorhabditis mothers. Science 343, 536–540 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]

D. E. L. Promislow, M. Kaeberlein, Chemical warfare in the battle of the sexes. Science 343, 491–492 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]

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