How oocytes are transferred into an oviduct with a receptive environment remains poorly known. We found that glands of the Drosophila female reproductive tract, spermathecae and/or parovaria, are required for ovulation and to promote sperm storage. Reducing total secretory cell number by interferring with Notch signaling during development blocked ovulation. Knocking down expression after adult eclosion of the nuclear hormone receptor Hr39, a master regulator of gland development, slowed ovulation and blocked sperm storage. However, ovulation (but not sperm storage) continued when only canonical protein secretion was compromised in adult glands. Our results imply that proteins secreted during adulthood by the canonical secretory pathway from female reproductive glands are needed to store sperm, while a non-canonical glandular secretion stimulates ovulation. Our results suggest that the reproductive tract signals to the ovary using glandular secretions, and that this pathway has been conserved during evolution. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00415.001.
Keywords: D. melanogaster; Notch signaling; Ovulation; exocrine glands; nuclear receptor; sperm storage.