A glial amino-acid transporter controls synapse strength and courtship in Drosophila

Nat Neurosci. 2008 Jan;11(1):54-61. doi: 10.1038/nn2019. Epub 2007 Dec 9.


Mate choice is an evolutionarily critical decision that requires the detection of multiple sex-specific signals followed by central integration of these signals to direct appropriate behavior. The mechanisms controlling mate choice remain poorly understood. Here, we show that the glial amino-acid transporter genderblind controls whether Drosophila melanogaster males will attempt to mate with other males. Genderblind (gb) mutant males showed no alteration in heterosexual courtship or copulation, but were attracted to normally unappealing male species-specific chemosensory cues. As a result, genderblind mutant males courted and attempted to copulate with other Drosophila males. This homosexual behavior could be induced within hours using inducible RNAi, suggesting that genderblind controls nervous system function rather than its development. Consistent with this, and indicating that glial genderblind regulates ambient extracellular glutamate to suppress glutamatergic synapse strength in vivo, homosexual behavior could be turned on and off by altering glutamatergic transmission pharmacologically and/or genetically.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport System y+ / genetics
  • Amino Acid Transport System y+ / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Courtship*
  • Drosophila / physiology
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Homosexuality / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mutation / physiology
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / genetics
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Amino Acid Transport System y+
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • gb protein, Drosophila
  • Glutamic Acid