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Elife. 2014 Dec 12;3:e04205. doi: 10.7554/eLife.04205.

Evolved differences in larval social behavior mediated by novel pheromones.

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Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, United States.
Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, USDA-ARS, Gainesville, United States.


Pheromones, chemical signals that convey social information, mediate many insect social behaviors, including navigation and aggregation. Several studies have suggested that behavior during the immature larval stages of Drosophila development is influenced by pheromones, but none of these compounds or the pheromone-receptor neurons that sense them have been identified. Here we report a larval pheromone-signaling pathway. We found that larvae produce two novel long-chain fatty acids that are attractive to other larvae. We identified a single larval chemosensory neuron that detects these molecules. Two members of the pickpocket family of DEG/ENaC channel subunits (ppk23 and ppk29) are required to respond to these pheromones. This pheromone system is evolving quickly, since the larval exudates of D. simulans, the sister species of D. melanogaster, are not attractive to other larvae. Our results define a new pheromone signaling system in Drosophila that shares characteristics with pheromone systems in a wide diversity of insects.


Drosophila sechellia; Drosophila simulans; evolution; evolutionary biology; genomics; melanogaster; neuroscience; pheromone; pheromone receptor; social behavior

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