Hormonal Signaling Cascade during an Early-Adult Critical Period Required for Courtship Memory Retention in Drosophila

Curr Biol. 2017 Sep 25;27(18):2798-2809.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.08.017. Epub 2017 Sep 14.


Formation and expression of memories are critical for context-dependent decision making. In Drosophila, a courting male rejected by a mated female subsequently courts less avidly when paired with a virgin female, a behavioral modification attributed to "courtship memory." Here we show the critical role of hormonal state for maintenance of courtship memory. Ecdysis-triggering hormone (ETH) is essential for courtship memory through regulation of juvenile hormone (JH) levels in adult males. Reduction of JH levels via silencing of ETH signaling genes impairs short-term courtship memory, a phenotype rescuable by the JH analog methoprene. JH-deficit-induced memory impairment involves rapid decay rather than failure of memory acquisition. A critical period governs memory performance during the first 3 days of adulthood. Using sex-peptide-expressing "pseudo-mated" trainers, we find that robust courtship memory elicited in the absence of aversive chemical mating cues also is dependent on ETH-JH signaling. Finally, we find that JH acts through dopaminergic neurons and conclude that an ETH-JH-dopamine signaling cascade is required during a critical period for promotion of social-context-dependent memory.

Keywords: courtship conditioning; dopamine; ecdysis triggering hormone; juvenile hormone; learning.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Courtship
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Insect Hormones / metabolism*
  • Juvenile Hormones / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Insect Hormones
  • Juvenile Hormones
  • ecdysis-triggering hormone, Drosophila