MicroRNAs influence reproductive responses by females to male sex peptide in Drosophila melanogaster

Claudia Fricke (Lead Author), Darrell Green, Damian Smith, Tamas Dalmay, Tracey Chapman

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Across taxa, female behavior and physiology changes significantly following the receipt of ejaculate molecules during mating. For example, receipt of sex peptide (SP) in female Drosophila melanogaster significantly alters female receptivity, egg production, lifespan, hormone levels, immunity, sleep and feeding patterns. These changes are underpinned by distinct tissue- and time-specific changes in diverse sets of mRNAs. However, little is yet known about the regulation of these gene expression changes, and hence the potential role of microRNAs (miRNAs), in female post-mating responses. A preliminary screen of genomic responses in females to receipt of SP suggested that there were changes in the expression of several miRNAs. Here we tested directly whether females lacking four of the candidate miRNAs highlighted (miR-279, miR-317, miR-278 and miR-184) showed altered fecundity, receptivity and lifespan responses to receipt of SP, when mated once or continually to SP null or control males. The results showed that miRNA-lacking females mated to SP null males exhibited altered receptivity, but not reproductive output, in comparison to controls. However, these effects interacted significantly with the genetic background of the miRNA-lacking females. No significant survival effects were observed in miRNA-lacking females housed continually with SP null or control males. However, continual exposure to control males that transferred SP resulted in significantly higher variation in miRNA-lacking female lifespan than did continual exposure to SP null males. The results provide the first insight into the effects and importance of miRNAs in regulating post-mating responses in females.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1603-1619
Number of pages17
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2014


  • Acp70A
  • ejaculate
  • male–female coevolution
  • postmating sexual selection
  • sexual conflict

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