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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 27;8(6):e68136. Print 2013.

Genome-Wide Responses of Female Fruit Flies Subjected to Divergent Mating Regimes.

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  • 1Faculty of Life Sciences and Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom ; School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, United Kingdom.


Elevated rates of mating and reproduction cause decreased female survival and lifetime reproductive success across a wide range of taxa from flies to humans. These costs are fundamentally important to the evolution of life histories. Here we investigate the potential mechanistic basis of this classic life history component. We conducted 4 independent replicated experiments in which female Drosophila melanogaster were subjected to 'high' and 'low' mating regimes, resulting in highly significant differences in lifespan. We sampled females for transcriptomic analysis at day 10 of life, before the visible onset of ageing, and used Tiling expression arrays to detect differential gene expression in two body parts (abdomen versus head+thorax). The divergent mating regimes were associated with significant differential expression in a network of genes showing evidence for interactions with ecdysone receptor. Preliminary experimental manipulation of two genes in that network with roles in post-transcriptional modification (CG11486, eyegone) tended to enhance sensitivity to mating costs. However, the subtle nature of those effects suggests substantial functional redundancy or parallelism in this gene network, which could buffer females against excessive responses. There was also evidence for differential expression in genes involved in germline maintenance, cell proliferation and in gustation / odorant reception. Interestingly, we detected differential expression in three specific genes (EcR, keap1, lbk1) and one class of genes (gustation / odorant receptors) with previously reported roles in determining lifespan. Our results suggest that high and low mating regimes that lead to divergence in lifespan are associated with changes in the expression of genes such as reproductive hormones, that influence resource allocation to the germ line, and that may modify post-translational gene expression. This predicts that the correct signalling of nutrient levels to the reproductive system is important for maintaining organismal integrity.

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