ppk23-Dependent chemosensory functions contribute to courtship behavior in Drosophila melanogaster

PLoS Genet. 2012;8(3):e1002587. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002587. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Insects utilize diverse families of ion channels to respond to environmental cues and control mating, feeding, and the response to threats. Although degenerin/epithelial sodium channels (DEG/ENaC) represent one of the largest families of ion channels in Drosophila melanogaster, the physiological functions of these proteins are still poorly understood. We found that the DEG/ENaC channel ppk23 is expressed in a subpopulation of sexually dimorphic gustatory-like chemosensory bristles that are distinct from those expressing feeding-related gustatory receptors. Disrupting ppk23 or inhibiting activity of ppk23-expressing neurons did not alter gustatory responses. Instead, blocking ppk23-positive neurons or mutating the ppk23 gene delayed the initiation and reduced the intensity of male courtship. Furthermore, mutations in ppk23 altered the behavioral response of males to the female-specific aphrodisiac pheromone 7(Z), 11(Z)-Heptacosadiene. Together, these data indicate that ppk23 and the cells expressing it play an important role in the peripheral sensory system that determines sexual behavior in Drosophila.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkadienes / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Courtship*
  • Drosophila Proteins* / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins* / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster* / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster* / physiology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Ion Channels* / genetics
  • Ion Channels* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal* / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal* / physiology
  • Taste Perception / genetics


  • 7,11-heptacosadiene
  • Alkadienes
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • PPK23 protein, Drosophila