Background: Drosophila melanogaster females show changes in behavior and physiology after mating that are thought to maximize the number of progeny resulting from the most recent copulation. Sperm and seminal fluid proteins induce post-mating changes in females, however, very little is known about the resulting gene expression changes in female head and central nervous system tissues that contribute to the post-mating response.
Results: We determined the temporal gene expression changes in female head tissues 0-2, 24, 48 and 72 hours after mating. Females from each time point had a unique post-mating gene expression response, with 72 hours post-mating having the largest number of genes with significant changes in expression. At most time points, genes expressed in the head fat body that encode products involved in metabolism showed a marked change in expression. Additional analysis of gene expression changes in dissected brain tissues 24 hours post-mating revealed changes in transcript abundance of many genes, notably, the reduced transcript abundance of genes that encode ion channels.
Conclusions: Substantial changes occur in the regulation of many genes in female head tissues after mating, which might underlie aspects of the female post-mating response. These results provide new insights into the physiological and metabolic changes that accompany changes in female behaviors.