Mating regulates neuromodulator ensembles at nerve termini innervating the Drosophila reproductive tract

Curr Biol. 2014 Mar 31;24(7):731-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.042. Epub 2014 Mar 13.


Upon mating, regions of the female reproductive tract mature and alter their function [1-3], for example to facilitate storage of sperm or control the release of eggs [4-6]. The female's nervous system and neuromodulators play important roles in her responses to mating [7-13]. However, it is difficult to reconcile the reproductive tract's many changing but coordinated events with the small set of neuromodulators present [14-18]. We hypothesized that each part of the reproductive tract contains a characteristic combination of neuromodulators that confer unique identities on each region and that postmating changes in these combinations coordinate subsequent actions. We examined the presence, locations, and levels of neuromodulators and related molecules ("signaling molecules") in the reproductive tract of Drosophila melanogaster females before and after mating: the biogenic amine octopamine, which regulates ovulation rate in Drosophila and locusts [7, 14-20]; serotonin, which regulates muscle contraction in locust oviducts [21]; and the FMRF amide dromyosuppressin, which regulates contraction of Drosophila heart muscle [22] and may regulate muscle contractions in the reproductive tract, if it is expressed there. We find that separate aspects of mating (sperm, seminal proteins, and physical effects) independently modulate the release of signaling molecules. Each reproductive tract subregion displays a characteristic combination of signaling molecule release, resulting in a unique functional identity. These patterns, and thus functions, change reproducibly after mating. Thus, one event (mating) promotes new combinations of signaling molecules that endow different parts of the reproductive tract with unique temporal and spatial identities that facilitate many aspects of fertilization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / innervation
  • Genitalia, Female / physiology*
  • Insect Hormones / metabolism
  • Insect Hormones / physiology
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Octopamine / metabolism
  • Octopamine / physiology
  • Oviducts / innervation
  • Oviducts / physiology
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / physiology
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Insect Hormones
  • Neuropeptides
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter
  • neomyosuppressin
  • Octopamine
  • Serotonin