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A Matter of Taste

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Science  26 Sep 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5641, pp. 1817
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5641.1817c

Mating in Drosophila involves a stereotyped series of courtship behaviors in which the male fly successively orients toward the female, taps her with his foreleg, “sings,” licks her, and finally attempts to copulate; courtship efficiency determines mating success. Courtship behavior is triggered by specific sensory cues, but the molecular mechanisms by which sensory stimuli are translated into behavioral responses remain unclear.

Bray and Amrein have now identified a male-specific receptor expressed in chemosensory foreleg neurons that appears to be required for efficient courtship. One gene, Gr68a, was selectively expressed in chemosensory neurons of male-specific foreleg taste bristles. Inactivation of synaptic transmission from these neurons led to reduced courtship intensity, decreased mating efficiency, and lack of success in mating when competing with wild-type males. Knockdown of the GR68a receptor through RNA interference had similar effects. By quantifying performance of the steps involved in Drosophila courtship, the authors determined that the behavioral deficit occurred after orienting but before singing. Thus, GR68a appears to be required for the recognition of the nonvolatile pheromones found on the abdomen of female Drosophila, and input from these pheromones during tapping appears to be required for successful completion of courtship behavior. — EA

Neuron 39, 1019 (2003).

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