The Female Post-Mating Response Requires Genes Expressed in the Secondary Cells of the Male Accessory Gland in Drosophila melanogaster.

  • publication
  • 10-01-2016

Sitnik JL, Gligorov D, Maeda RK, Karch F, Wolfner MF. Genetics 2016 Mar;202(3):1029-41. genetics.115.181644. 10.1534/genetics.115.181644. PMC4788108.

Seminal proteins from the Drosophila male accessory gland induce post-mating responses (PMR) in females. The PMR comprise behavioral and physiological changes that include increased egg laying, decreased receptivity to courting males, and changes in the storage and use of sperm. Many of these changes are induced by a "sex peptide" (SP) and are maintained by SP's binding to, and slow release from, sperm. The accessory gland contains two secretory cell types with distinct morphological and developmental characteristics. Products of these "main" and "secondary" cells work interdependently to induce and maintain the PMR. To identify individual genes needed for the morphology and function of secondary cells, we studied iab-6(cocu) males, whose secondary cells have abnormal morphology and fail to provide products to maintain the PMR. By RNA-seq, we identified 77 genes that are downregulated by a factor of >5× in iab-6(cocu) males. By functional assays and microscopy, we tested 20 candidate genes and found that at least 9 are required for normal storage and release of SP in mated females. Knockdown of each of these 9 genes consequently leads to a reduction in egg laying and an increase in receptivity over time, confirming a role for the secondary cells in maintaining the long-term PMR. Interestingly, only 1 of the 9 genes, CG3349, encodes a previously reported seminal fluid protein (Sfp), suggesting that secondary cells may perform essential functions beyond the production and modification of known Sfps. At least 3 of the 9 genes also regulate the size and/or abundance of secondary cell vacuoles, suggesting that the vacuoles' contents may be important for the machinery used to maintain the PMR.

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