Turning males on: activation of male courtship behavior in Drosophila melanogaster

PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e21144. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021144. Epub 2011 Jun 22.


The innate sexual behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster males are an attractive system for elucidating how complex behavior patterns are generated. The potential for male sexual behavior in D. melanogaster is specified by the fruitless (fru) and doublesex (dsx) sex regulatory genes. We used the temperature-sensitive activator dTRPA1 to probe the roles of fru(M)- and dsx-expressing neurons in male courtship behaviors. Almost all steps of courtship, from courtship song to ejaculation, can be induced at very high levels through activation of either all fru(M) or all dsx neurons in solitary males. Detailed characterizations reveal different roles for fru(M) and dsx in male courtship. Surprisingly, the system for mate discrimination still works well when all dsx neurons are activated, but is impaired when all fru(M) neurons are activated. Most strikingly, we provide evidence for a fru(M)-independent courtship pathway that is primarily vision dependent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Courtship*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Head
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology
  • Wings, Animal / physiology


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DSX protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • fru protein, Drosophila