Sex-peptides: seminal peptides of the Drosophila male
Mating affects the reproductive behaviour of insect females: the egg-laying rate increases and courting males are rejected. These post-mating responses are induced mainly by seminal fluid. In Drosophila melanogaster, males transfer two peptides (sex-peptides, = Sps) that reduce receptivity and elicit increased egg laying in their mating partners. Similarities in the open reading frames of the genes suggest that they have arisen by gene duplication. In females, Sps bind to specific sites in the central and peripheral nervous system, and to the genital tract. The binding proteins of the nervous system and genital tract are membrane proteins, but they differ molecularly. The former protein is proposed to be a receptor located at the top of a signalling cascade leading to the two post-mating responses, whereas the latter is a carrier protein moving Sps from the genital tract into the haemolymph. Sps bind to sperm. Together with sperm they are responsible for the persistence of the two post-mating responses. But Sps are the molecular basis of the sperm effect; sperm is merely the carrier.
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