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Learning And Memory


Courtship conditioning is an associative learning paradigm in Drosophila melanogaster, wherein male courtship behavior is modified by experience with unreceptive, previously mated females. While the training experience with mated females involves multiple sensory and behavioral interactions, we hypothesized that female cuticular hydrocarbons function as a specific chemosensory conditioned stimulus in this learning paradigm. The effects of training with mated females were determined in courtship tests with either wild-type virgin females as courtship targets, or with target flies of different genotypes that express distinct Cuticular hydrocarbon (CH) profiles. Results of tests with female targets that lacked the normal CH profile, and with male targets that expressed typically female CH profiles, indicated that components of this CH profile are both necessary and sufficient cues to elicit the effects of conditioning. Results with additional targets indicated that the female-specific 7,11-dienes, which induce naive males to court, are not essential components of the conditioned Stimulus. Rather, the learned response was significantly correlated with the levels of 9-pentacosene (9-P), a compound found in both males and females of many Drosophila strains and species. Adding 9-P to target flies showed that it stimulates courting males to attempt to copulate, and confirmed its role as a component of the conditioned stimulus by demonstrating dose-dependent increases in the expression of the learned response. Thus, 9-P can contribute significantly to the conditioned Suppression of male courtship toward targets that express this pheromone.


This work is freely available courtesy of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.