Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Absent pheromones turn flies into lusty Lotharios

16.10.2009
When Professor Joel Levine's team genetically tweaked fruit flies so that they didn't produce certain pheromones, they triggered a sexual tsunami in their University of Toronto Mississauga laboratory.

In fact, they produced bugs so irresistible that normal male fruit flies attempted to mate with pheromone-free males and even females from a different species-generally a no-no in the fruit fly dating scene.

The study, published in the Oct. 15 issue of Nature, points to a link between sex, species recognition and a specific chemical mechanism, and is part of Levine's larger research into the genetic basis of social behaviour.

"This is important not only from the point of view of understanding social dynamics, but it's also fundamental biology, because these pheromones provide recognition cues that facilitate reproductive behaviour," says Levine, an assistant professor of biology. "Lacking these chemical signals (pheromones) eliminated barriers to mating. It turned out that males of other species were attracted to females who didn't have these signals, so that seemed to eliminate the species barrier."

In this study, they focused on recognition-how individual Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) know what their species is and what their sex is. While previous studies had suggested that pheromones played an important role, Levine's team decided to genetically eliminate a certain class of these chemicals, called cuticular hydrocarbon pheromones, to determine their particular effect.

The researchers found that female flies bred without the hydrocarbons were melanogaster Marilyn Monroes to normal males. But the effect didn't stop there-males lacking the hydrocarbons were also sexually irresistible. In fact, females lacking the hydrocarbons were so sexy that males of other Drosophila species courted them.

When the researchers treated females bred without the hydrocarbons with a female aphrodisiac, it restored the barrier preventing sex between species, suggesting that a single compound can provide species identity. "That means the same chemical signals and genes are underlying not only social behaviour in groups, like courtship and mating, but also behaviour between species."

Levine stresses that while pheromones are part of the human mating dance, the cues for attraction are far more complex in our species.

"Although I am no expert on human pheromones, there is evidence that men and women may discriminate odours from the same sex or other sexes differently, and there's even some evidence that how an individual discriminates those odours may reflect their gender preference," he says. "We may rely more on the visual system, and we may have a more complex way of assessing other individuals and classifying them and determining how we're going to relate to them than a fly does.

"But what we're looking at is a spectrum across biology of a tendency to understand how others relate to ourselves. It's clearly an issue that humans are caught up in-it's in our art, like Madame Butterfly and it's in our newspapers, in terms of sports issues like the recent controversy about the sexual identify of the South African runner Caster Semenya."

The study was funded by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Canada Research Chair grants awarded to Levine.

*Images available upon request.

CONTACT:
Joel Levine
Department of Biology
University of Toronto Mississauga
joel.levine@utoronto.ca
Nicolle Wahl
Communications and Marketing
University of Toronto Mississauga
905-569-4656
nicolle.wahl@utoronto.ca

Nicolle Wahl | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utoronto.ca

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>