Now, evolutionary and developmental biologists at the University of Georgia and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have uncovered evidence that after fruit flies mate, the presence of sperm and male proteins in the female's reproductive tract sets off an amazing cascade of heretofore undescribed gene activity. Understanding how this works will give scientists new insights into reproduction, but it could also provide methods to safely control the spread of insect pests by interfering with their reproduction.
"We have been able to define a large number of mating-responsive genes that are activated in Drosophila," said Michael Bender, a developmental biologist in the department of genetics at UGA. "There is a lot of potential in this work for uncovering basic aspects of reproductive biology that will be useful in pest-control approaches."
The research was just published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work resulted from a collaboration between Bender, Paul Mack, a postdoctoral fellow in the Bender lab at UGA, Yael Heifetz of Hebrew University and Anat Kapelnikov, a graduate student in the Heifetz lab. A number of undergraduates at UGA also worked on the research.
Drosophila has been used as a model animal for nearly a century. It is easy to manipulate in a lab, lives only a few weeks and begins mating soon after hatching. Its entire genetic map or genome has also been sequenced, giving researchers a powerful tool in understanding intricate biological processes and the genes that direct them.
Bender's team, using both the established genomic background of Drosophila and studies of mating insects, showed that the sperm and proteins transferred from males to females during mating have "profound effects" on female gene expression. Most surprising is that gene activity rapidly escalates about six hours after mating--something previously unknown.
"We looked at the reproductive tracts of females at three, six and 24 hours post-mating," said Mack. "Just getting enough material through dissection is extremely difficult and time-consuming, but this kind of time-based evaluation of post-mating gene expression in Drosophila had never been done."
Perhaps surprisingly, very little is known about how gene expression in female reproductive tissues changes in response to the presence of sperm and male molecules. The study compared 3-day-old mated and unmated females and discovered the presence in mated females of a startling 539 genes whose activity changes after mating.
"One novel feature of this research was Paul's decision to look at what happens over time," said Bender. "That's how we found out that the activity hits a peak six hours after mating. This indicates quite a large genetic response in the female tract to male-derived molecules and sperm."
Though considerable research has been done on male Drosophila over the years, relatively little had focused on females. Just why the array of gene expression peaks at 6 hours is not yet clear, but revealing this timing could help in controlling insect pests. That is one reason the research was funded by the Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) Fund, a joint program between the United States and Israel. Since 1979, BARD has funded nearly 900 research projects in almost all 50 states. Support for the research also came from The National Institutes of Health.
The Bender and Heifetz teams weren't operating in the dark, since earlier studies had examined some post-mating gene expression in Drosophila, but that earlier work did not examine expression over a set time period and involved examining the whole bodies of mated insects, not just their reproductive tracts.
The researchers' double approach using genomics and proteomics--the study of proteins and the products they turn on--was especially productive because it allowed them to identify genes they would not have found using a single approach.
"The next step will be to choose a few of the most promising genes and to explore their function in females," said Bender.
Once the gene functions are known, then scientists can begin to examine how to manipulate them--both to study the biology involved and to find potential targets for pest control.
Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception
25.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik
Studying a catalyst for blood cancers
25.04.2017 | University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.04.2017 | Life Sciences
25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences