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Battle of the Sexes
In many species, males compete with one another to propagate their own DNA, often to the detriment of females (see the Perspective by Promislow and Kaeberlein). Shi and Murphy (p. 536, published online 19 December) discovered that mating in Caenorhabditis species causes mothers to shrink and die soon after they have ceased producing progeny. Males appear to hijack the longevity and stress resistance pathways normally employed by the mothers to slow reproduction and somatic aging in times of stress. Maures et al. (p. 541, published online 29 November) explored why the presence of abundant mating-competent males causes a decrease in the life span of nematodes of the opposite sex and found that a secreted substance, possibly a pheromone, reproduced the effect of the males when transferred in the culture medium. Detection of pheromones from a female fruit fly is enough to cause changes in metabolism, reduce resistance to starvation, and shorten the life span of male flies. Gendron et al. (p. 544, published online 29 November) report that the signals from the female appear to be recognized by sensory receptors on the legs of male flies.
Interactions between the germ line and the soma help optimize reproductive success. We discovered a phenomenon linking reproductive status to longevity: In both hermaphroditic and gonochoristic Caenorhabditis, mating leads to female shrinking and death, compressing postreproductive life span. Male sperm induces germline- and DAF-9/DAF-12–dependent shrinking, osmotic stress susceptibility, and subsequent life-span decrease, whereas seminal fluid induces DAF-16–dependent life-span decrease and fat loss. Our study provides insight into the communication between males and the female germ line and soma to regulate reproduction and longevity, revealing a high-reproduction, low–life-span state induced by mating. Postmating somatic collapse may be an example of the sexually antagonistic influence that males in many species exert on female behavior to maximize their own reproductive success.