Enteric neurons increase maternal food intake during reproduction

Nature. 2020 Nov;587(7834):455-459. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2866-8. Epub 2020 Oct 28.


Reproduction induces increased food intake across females of many animal species1-4, providing a physiologically relevant paradigm for the exploration of appetite regulation. Here, by examining the diversity of enteric neurons in Drosophila melanogaster, we identify a key role for gut-innervating neurons with sex- and reproductive state-specific activity in sustaining the increased food intake of mothers during reproduction. Steroid and enteroendocrine hormones functionally remodel these neurons, which leads to the release of their neuropeptide onto the muscles of the crop-a stomach-like organ-after mating. Neuropeptide release changes the dynamics of crop enlargement, resulting in increased food intake, and preventing the post-mating remodelling of enteric neurons reduces both reproductive hyperphagia and reproductive fitness. The plasticity of enteric neurons is therefore key to reproductive success. Our findings provide a mechanism to attain the positive energy balance that sustains gestation, dysregulation of which could contribute to infertility or weight gain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Structures / cytology
  • Animal Structures / innervation
  • Animal Structures / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hyperphagia / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mothers*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Reproduction / physiology*


  • Neuropeptides