Those behaviors often end once the mating is complete. But male and female insects continue to influence each other on molecular, cellular and physiological levels – even after the partners go their separate ways, according to research by Mariana Wolfner, Cornell professor of molecular biology and genetics.
Wolfner spoke on “Seminal influences: How Proteins Transferred by Mating Males Affect Reproduction and Behavior of Female Fruit Flies,” at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Feb. 21 in Washington, D.C.
Molecules transferred from male to female fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) during mating cause a variety of changes in the female long after the male has left the scene, Wolfner said – in some cases working in a kind of cooperative molecular ballet; and in other ways boosting the male’s competitive advantage against rivals.
Understanding each of those interactions better could lead to new ways of curtailing reproduction in harmful insects, or boosting it in beneficial ones, she said. The research could also help answer key questions about chemical communication and evolution across species.
After a male and female fruit fly mate, the female undergoes a series of changes that not only improve her chances of reproductive success, but also boost the male’s chances of out-propagating his potential competitors. Among these changes: mated females have increased appetites and produce more antimicrobial peptides that kill microbial and fungal invaders; their reproductive tracts open to allow entry and storage of sperm; and they show more resistance to mating attempts by other males.
To pinpoint the causes, Wolfner and colleagues removed individual elements in the mating process and tested the females’ reactions. They first narrowed the cause down to seminal fluid proteins manufactured in the male flies’ accessory gland; then removed individual proteins one by one to match specific molecules and responses.
The intermolecular dialogue is vital for reproduction in general, but it also serves functions that benefit the male and female individually, sometimes leading to a microscopic battle between the sexes, Wolfner said. A mated female that resists mating with other males is more likely to propagate her first partner’s genes, for example. If that partner is less fit, she may lose out by having fewer or poorer quality offspring overall. A female could also lose in the long run if the interaction causes her to produce more eggs, increasing progeny for the male but potentially shortening the female’s lifespan.
Ultimately, Wolfner said, knowledge gained by studying Drosophila could help researchers find ways to control insects that transmit devastating diseases, including dengue fever, West Nile encephalitis or malaria.
“One way to address the spread of these diseases is to interfere the ability of their insect vectors to reproduce. By understanding the molecules that enhance or impede reproduction in Drosophila fruit flies, we gain information that can help to do that,” she said.John Carberry
John Carberry | Newswise Science News
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences