New reproductive anomalies in fruitless-mutant Drosophila males: extreme lengthening of mating durations and infertility correlated with defective serotonergic innervation of reproductive organs

J Neurobiol. 2001 May;47(2):121-49. doi: 10.1002/neu.1021.


Several features of male reproductive behavior are under the neural control of fruitless (fru) in Drosophila melanogaster. This gene is known to influence courtship steps prior to mating, due to the absence of attempted copulation in the behavioral repertoire of most types of fru-mutant males. However, certain combinations of fru mutations allow for fertility. By analyzing such matings and their consequences, we uncovered two striking defects: mating times up to four times the normal average duration of copulation; and frequent infertility, regardless of the time of mating by a given transheterozygous fru-mutant male. The lengthened copulation times may be connected with fru-induced defects in the formation of a male-specific abdominal muscle. Production of sperm and certain seminal fluid proteins are normal in these fru mutants. However, analysis of postmating qualities of females that copulated with transheterozygous mutants strongly implied defects in the ability of these males to transfer sperm and seminal fluids. Such abnormalities may be associated with certain serotonergic neurons in the abdominal ganglion in which production of 5HT is regulated by fru. These cells send processes to contractile muscles of the male's internal sex organs; such projection patterns are aberrant in the semifertile fru mutants. Therefore, the reproductive functions regulated by fruitless are expanded in their scope, encompassing not only the earliest stages of courtship behavior along with almost all subsequent steps in the behavioral sequence, but also more than one component of the culminating events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copulation / physiology*
  • Courtship
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Infertility, Male / pathology
  • Male
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Sperm Count
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Testis / innervation
  • Testis / pathology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • fru protein, Drosophila
  • Serotonin