Male-male courtship behavior induced by ectopic expression of the Drosophila white gene: role of sensory function and age

J Neurobiol. 1996 Aug;30(4):454-64. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4695(199608)30:4<454::AID-NEU2>3.0.CO;2-2.


Male-male courtship behavior was recently reported to be induced in large populations of Drosophila (e.g., 600-1500 flies) by ectopic expression of the white (w) gene. Little is known about the basis of this behavior; in male-female courtship, sensory cues are believed to play an important role. Previous data are consistent with the possibility that misexpression of w causes abnormal reception or processing of sensory information. We show here that w-induced male-male courtship occurs in isolated pairs of flies. Thus the behavior does not depend on sensory cues found only among large populations of flies, or on cues produced only by a small subset of such populations. This finding enabled quantitative analysis of mechanisms that underlie the behavior. Specifically, male-male courtship does not depend on the reception of olfactory information, nor on the reception or generation of auditory cues, as determined by surgical ablation of antennae, maxillary palps, or wings. Although the rapid onset of the behavior following w induction suggested that its basis could lie in a modulation of sensory physiology, we found visual, olfactory, and gustatory function to be normal in physiological or behavioral tests. The only sensory deprivation to produce an effect on male-male courtship was testing under dim red light; the percentage of flies courting another male was reduced to one-fourth of control values. A striking age dependence of the behavior is also documented: courtship between paired male mini-w+ flies was not observed in tests of very young (1-day-old) flies, but occurs at high levels between the ages of 1 and 4 weeks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Lighting
  • Male
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Shock / physiopathology
  • Smell / physiology
  • Taste / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology