Sex-determining genes distinctly regulate courtship capability and target preference via sexually dimorphic neurons

Elife. 2020 Apr 21;9:e52701. doi: 10.7554/eLife.52701.

Abstract

For successful mating, a male animal must execute effective courtship behaviors toward a receptive target sex, which is female. Whether the courtship execution capability and upregulation of courtship toward females are specified through separable sex-determining genetic pathways remains uncharacterized. Here, we found that one of the two Drosophila sex-determining genes, doublesex (dsx), specifies a male-specific neuronal component that serves as an execution mechanism for courtship behavior, whereas fruitless (fru) is required for enhancement of courtship behavior toward females. The dsx-dependent courtship execution mechanism includes a specific subclass within a neuronal cluster that co-express dsx and fru. This cluster contains at least another subclass that is specified cooperatively by both dsx and fru. Although these neuronal populations can also promote aggressive behavior toward male flies, this capacity requires fru-dependent mechanisms. Our results uncover how sex-determining genes specify execution capability and female-specific enhancement of courtship behavior through separable yet cooperative neurogenetic mechanisms.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; aggression; courtship behavior; doublesex; fruitless; genetics; genomics; neuroscience; sexual dimorphism; social behavior.