Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 56, Issue 7, pp 634-646

First online:

Sexual behavior mutants revisited: molecular and cellular basis of Drosophila mating

  • D. YamamotoAffiliated withERATO Yamamoto Behavior Genes Project, Mitsubishi Kasei Institute of Life Sciences, 11 Minamiooya, Machida, Tokyo 194-8511 (Japan), e-mail: daichan@mn.waseda.ac.jp
  • , Y. NakanoAffiliated withERATO Yamamoto Behavior Genes Project, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Honolulu (Hawaii 96822, USA), Fax +81 429 47 6806, e-mail: daichan@mn.waseda.ac.jp

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The study of Drosophila melanogaster by a combination of forward genetics with specific mutants, and reverse genetics, in which a given gene is expressed in an appropriate brain area to test its effect on behavior, provides a unique opportunity to explore the causal relationship between a particular gene, its function in the cell and the behavioral outcome at the organismic level. Enhanced male-to-male courtship has been shown to occur as a result of mutations in several different genes. For example, the Voila mutant exhibits intense GAL4 reporter expression in the tarsal gustatory sensilla, suggesting the importance of tapping by a male on the female abdomen with his forelegs. Feminization of parts of the antennal lobe and mushroom body by targeted expression of a female-determining gene transformer + (tra +) drives the male to court other males. Mutations in the tra target gene fruitless (fru), which is expressed in the antennal lobe as well as the suboesophageal ganglion (the gustatory inputs are processed here), also induce homosexual courtship in males. These results suggest that sensory inputs mediated and/or processed by the tarsal receptors, suboesophageal ganglion, antennal lobe and mushroom body contribute to the regulation of male–female courtship. Mosaic analysis localized the neural center for male courtship behavior to the posterior dorsal brain, in which the sensory information processed by the aforementioned neural structures may be integrated. Another mosaic study mapped the neural center for female sexual behavior, as measured by her receptiveness to copulation, to the anterior dorsal brain. The issue as to how the mutations that reduce female sexual receptiveness, e.g. dissatisfaction (dsf), spinster (spin) and chaste (cht), affect the structure and/or function of this neural center deserves to be addressed urgently.

Key words. Courtship; sexual receptiveness; Drosophila melanogaster; sexual orientation; pheromones; sexual mosaicism.