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J Insect Physiol. 2012 Sep;58(9):1192-201. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2012.06.002. Epub 2012 Jun 12.

Female Drosophila melanogaster suffer reduced defense against infection due to seminal fluid components.

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Field of Genetics and Development, Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Reduced defense against infection is commonly observed as a consequence of reproductive activity, but little is known about how post-mating immunosuppression occurs. In this work, we use Drosophila melanogaster as a model to test the role of seminal fluid components and egg production in suppressing post-mating immune defense. We also evaluate whether systemic immune system activity is altered during infection in mated females. We find that post-mating reduction in female defense depends critically on male transfer of sperm and seminal fluid proteins, including the accessory gland protein known as "sex peptide." However, the effect of these male factors is dependent on the presence of the female germline. We find that mated females have lower antimicrobial peptide gene expression than virgin females in response to systemic infection, and that this lower expression correlates with higher systemic bacterial loads. We conclude that, upon receipt of sperm and seminal fluid proteins, females experience a germline-dependent physiological shift that directly or indirectly reduces their overall ability to defend against infection, at least in part through alteration of humoral immune system activity.

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