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PLoS Genet. 2017 Aug 17;13(8):e1006935. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006935. eCollection 2017 Aug.

Tissue-specific insulin signaling mediates female sexual attractiveness.

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Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan, 109 Zina Pitcher Pl, Ann Arbor, MI, United States of America.
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, 30 Marie Curie, Ottawa, ON, Canada.
Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle WA, United States of America.
Department of Biology, University of Washington, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States of America.
Geriatrics Center, University of Michigan, 109 Zina Pitcher Pl, Ann Arbor, United States of America.


Individuals choose their mates so as to maximize reproductive success, and one important component of this choice is assessment of traits reflecting mate quality. Little is known about why specific traits are used for mate quality assessment nor about how they reflect it. We have previously shown that global manipulation of insulin signaling, a nutrient-sensing pathway governing investment in survival versus reproduction, affects female sexual attractiveness in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Here we demonstrate that these effects on attractiveness derive from insulin signaling in the fat body and ovarian follicle cells, whose signals are integrated by pheromone-producing cells called oenocytes. Functional ovaries were required for global insulin signaling effects on attractiveness, and manipulations of insulin signaling specifically in late follicle cells recapitulated effects of global manipulations. Interestingly, modulation of insulin signaling in the fat body produced opposite effects on attractiveness, suggesting a competitive relationship with the ovary. Furthermore, all investigated tissue-specific insulin signaling manipulations that changed attractiveness also changed fecundity in the corresponding direction, pointing to insulin pathway activity as a reliable link between fecundity and attractiveness cues. The cues themselves, cuticular hydrocarbons, responded distinctly to fat body and follicle cell manipulations, indicating independent readouts of the pathway activity from these two tissues. Thus, here we describe a system in which female attractiveness results from an apparent connection between attractiveness cues and an organismal state of high fecundity, both of which are created by lowered insulin signaling in the fat body and increased insulin signaling in late follicle cells.

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