Background: Behavior is a complex process resulting from the integration of genetic and environmental information. Drosophila melanogaster rely on multiple sensory modalities for reproductive success, and mating causes physiological changes in both sexes that affect reproductive output or behavior. Some of these effects are likely mediated by changes in gene expression. Courtship and mating alter female transcript profiles, but it is not known how mating affects male gene expression.
Results: We used Drosophila genome arrays to identify changes in gene expression profiles that occur in mated male heads. Forty-seven genes differed between mated and control heads 2 hrs post mating. Many mating-responsive genes are highly expressed in non-neural head tissues, including an adipose tissue called the fat body. One fat body-enriched gene, female-specific independent of transformer (fit), is a downstream target of the somatic sex-determination hierarchy, a genetic pathway that regulates Drosophila reproductive behaviors as well as expression of some fat-expressed genes; three other mating-responsive loci are also downstream components of this pathway. Another mating-responsive gene expressed in fat, Juvenile hormone esterase (Jhe), is necessary for robust male courtship behavior and mating success.
Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that mating causes changes in male head gene expression profiles and supports an increasing body of work implicating adipose signaling in behavior modulation. Since several mating-induced genes are sex-determination hierarchy target genes, additional mating-responsive loci may be downstream components of this pathway as well.