Female and male genetic contributions to post-mating immune defence in female Drosophila melanogaster

Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Dec 7;277(1700):3649-57. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0937. Epub 2010 Jun 23.


Post-mating reduction in immune defence is common in female insects, and a trade-off between mating and immunity could affect the evolution of immunity. In this work, we tested the capacity of virgin and mated female Drosophila melanogaster to defend against infection by four bacterial pathogens. We found that female D. melanogaster suffer post-mating immunosuppression in a pathogen-dependent manner. The effect of mating was seen after infection with two bacterial pathogens (Providencia rettgeri and Providencia alcalifaciens), though not after infection with two other bacteria (Enterococcus faecalis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa). We then asked whether the evolution of post-mating immunosuppression is primarily a 'female' or 'male' trait by assaying for genetic variation among females for the degree of post-mating immune suppression they experience and among males for the level of post-mating immunosuppression they elicit in their mates. We also assayed for an interaction between male and female genotypes to test the specific hypothesis that the evolution of a trade-off between mating and immune defence in females might be being driven by sexual conflict. We found that females, but not males, harbour significant genetic variation for post-mating immunosuppression, and we did not detect an interaction between female and male genotypes. We thus conclude that post-mating immune depression is predominantly a 'female' trait, and find no evidence that it is evolving under sexual conflict.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / immunology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Enterococcus faecalis / pathogenicity
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Immunosuppression Therapy*
  • Male
  • Providencia / pathogenicity
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / pathogenicity
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*