Loss of Drosophila pheromone reverses its role in sexual communication in Drosophila suzukii

Proc Biol Sci. 2015 Apr 7;282(1804):20143018. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.3018.


The Drosophila pheromone cis-11-octadecenyl acetate (cVA) is used as pheromone throughout the melanogaster group and fulfils a primary role in sexual and social behaviours. Here, we found that Drosophila suzukii, an invasive pest that oviposits in undamaged ripe fruit, does not produce cVA. In fact, its production site, the ejaculatory bulb, is atrophied. Despite loss of cVA production, its receptor, Or67d, and cognate sensillum, T1, which are essential in cVA-mediated behaviours, were fully functional. However, T1 expression was dramatically reduced in D. suzukii, and the corresponding antennal lobe glomerulus, DA1, minute. Behavioural responses to cVA depend on the input balance of Or67d neurons (driving cVA-mediated behaviours) and Or65a neurons (inhibiting cVA-mediated behaviours). Accordingly, the shifted input balance in D. suzukii has reversed cVA's role in sexual behaviour: perfuming D. suzukii males with Drosophila melanogaster equivalents of cVA strongly reduced mating rates. cVA has thus evolved from a generic sex pheromone to a heterospecific signal that disrupts mating in D. suzukii, a saltational shift, mediated through offsetting the input balance that is highly conserved in congeneric species. This study underlines that dramatic changes in a species' sensory preference can result from rather 'simple' numerical shifts in underlying neural circuits.

Keywords: Drosophila suzukii; ejaculatory bulb; evolution; fruitless; pheromone; sensory drive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pheromones / genetics
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Pheromones

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.865654