A circuit logic for sexually shared and dimorphic aggressive behaviors in Drosophila

Cell. 2021 Jan 21;184(2):507-520.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.048. Epub 2020 Dec 30.


Aggression involves both sexually monomorphic and dimorphic actions. How the brain implements these two types of actions is poorly understood. We have identified three cell types that regulate aggression in Drosophila: one type is sexually shared, and the other two are sex specific. Shared common aggression-promoting (CAP) neurons mediate aggressive approach in both sexes, whereas functionally downstream dimorphic but homologous cell types, called male-specific aggression-promoting (MAP) neurons in males and fpC1 in females, control dimorphic attack. These symmetric circuits underlie the divergence of male and female aggressive behaviors, from their monomorphic appetitive/motivational to their dimorphic consummatory phases. The strength of the monomorphic → dimorphic functional connection is increased by social isolation in both sexes, suggesting that it may be a locus for isolation-dependent enhancement of aggression. Together, these findings reveal a circuit logic for the neural control of behaviors that include both sexually monomorphic and dimorphic actions, which may generalize to other organisms.

Keywords: Drosophila; appetitive behavior; consummatory behavior; sexual dimorphism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Logic*
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Social Isolation
  • Tachykinins / metabolism


  • Tachykinins