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Functional Dissection of the Neural Substrates for Sexual Behaviors in Drosophila melanogaster


The male-specific Fruitless proteins (FruM) act to establish the potential for male courtship behavior in Drosophila melanogaster and are expressed in small groups of neurons throughout the nervous system. We screened ∼1000 GAL4 lines, using assays for general courtship, male-male interactions, and male fertility to determine the phenotypes resulting from the GAL4-driven inhibition of FruM expression in subsets of these neurons. A battery of secondary assays showed that the phenotypic classes of GAL4 lines could be divided into subgroups on the basis of additional neurobiological and behavioral criteria. For example, in some lines, restoration of FruM expression in cholinergic neurons restores fertility or reduces male-male courtship. Persistent chains of males courting each other in some lines results from males courting both sexes indiscriminately, whereas in other lines this phenotype results from apparent habituation deficits. Inhibition of ectopic FruM expression in females, in populations of neurons where FruM is necessary for male fertility, can rescue female infertility. To identify the neurons responsible for some of the observed behavioral alterations, we determined the overlap between the identified GAL4 lines and endogenous FruM expression in lines with fertility defects. The GAL4 lines causing fertility defects generally had widespread overlap with FruM expression in many regions of the nervous system, suggesting likely redundant FruM-expressing neuronal pathways capable of conferring male fertility. From associations between the screened behaviors, we propose a functional model for courtship initiation.

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