Divergence in transcriptional and regulatory responses to mating in male and female fruitflies

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Mating induces extensive physiological, biochemical and behavioural changes in female animals of many taxa. In contrast, the overall phenotypic and transcriptomic consequences of mating for males, hence how they might differ from those of females, are poorly described. Post mating responses in each sex are rapidly initiated, predicting the existence of regulatory mechanisms in addition to transcriptional responses involving de novo gene expression. That post mating responses appear different for each sex also predicts that the genome-wide signatures of mating should show evidence of sex-specific specialisation. In this study, we used high resolution RNA sequencing to provide the first direct comparisons of the transcriptomic responses of male and female Drosophila to mating, and the first comparison of mating-responsive miRNAs in both sexes in any species. As predicted, the results revealed the existence of sex- and body part-specific mRNA and miRNA expression profiles. More genes were differentially expressed in the female head-thorax than the abdomen following mating, whereas the opposite was true in males. Indeed, the transcriptional profile of male head-thorax tissue was largely unaffected by mating, and no differentially expressed genes were detected at the most stringent significance threshold. A subset of ribosomal genes in females were differentially expressed in both body parts, but in opposite directions, consistent with the existence of body part-specific resource allocation switching. Novel, mating-responsive miRNAs in each sex were also identified, and a miRNA-mRNA interactions analysis revealed putative targets among mating-responsive genes. We show that the structure of genome-wide responses by each sex to mating is strongly divergent, and provide new insights into how shared genomes can achieve characteristic distinctiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16100
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2019

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