A Neural Circuit Controlling Virgin Female Aggression Induced by Mating-related Cues in Drosophila

 Xiaolu Wan1,2 · Peng Shen1,2 · Kai Shi1,2 · Jing Li3  · Fengming Wu1  · Chuan Zhou1,2,3
1 State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China 
2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China 3 Institute of Molecular Physiology, Shenzhen Bay Laboratory, Shenzhen 518132, China


Females increase aggression for mating opportunities and for acquiring reproductive resources. Although the close relationship between female aggression and mating status is widely appreciated, whether and how female aggression is regulated by mating-related cues remains poorly understood. Here we report an interesting observation that Drosophila virgin females initiate high-frequency attacks toward mated females. We identify 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), a male-derived pheromone transferred to females during mating, which promotes virgin female aggression. We subsequently reveal a cVA-responsive neural circuit consisting of four orders of neurons, including Or67d, DA1, aSP-g, and pC1 neurons, that mediate cVA-induced virgin female aggression. We also determine that aSP-g neurons release acetylcholine (ACh) to excite pC1 neurons via the nicotinic ACh receptor nAChRα7. Together, beyond revealing cVA as a mating-related inducer of virgin female aggression, our results identify a neural circuit linking the chemosensory perception of mating-related cues to aggressive behavior in Drosophila females.

Drosophila; Aggression; Pheromone; 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate; Acetylcholine; Neural circuit