A male fruit fly influences the behavior and physiology of his mate via molecules that he transmits to her in his semen. The mated female fly has an elevated rate of egg laying, a decreased receptivity to mating and a shorter life span; she also stores sperm from the mating. Molecular genetic analyses possible in this insect model system permit the dissection of seminal fluid components that cause these mating responses in the female. Studies with transgenic and mutant flies have shown that products of the male's accessory gland cause short-term changes in the female's behavior and physiology; persistence of these changes requires the storage of sperm. Further dissection of accessory gland function has defined several molecules that cause these effects. A "sex peptide" and a prohormone-like molecule (Accessory gland protein 26Aa) stimulate the female's egg-laying rate; the sex peptide also depresses her receptivity to mating. A large glycoprotein (Acp36DE) appears to function in "corralling" sperm for storage. Studies of accessory gland products and the regulation of the genes that encode them will be important in understanding insect reproduction, behavior, and speciation and ultimately in designing ways to control the impressive fertility of unwanted insects. These studies also provide excellent models to address basic questions in cell biology such as the control of genes in response to sex-specific, mating-regulated and cell type-specific cues and the function and targeting of peptide hormones.