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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Apr 23;116(17):8437-8444. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1821386116. Epub 2019 Apr 8.

Sexual conflict drives male manipulation of female postmating responses in Drosophila melanogaster.

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School of Life Sciences, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland;
Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Muenster, 48149 Muenster, Germany.
Muenster Graduate School of Evolution, University of Muenster, 48149 Muenster, Germany.
Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


In many animals, females respond to mating with changes in physiology and behavior that are triggered by molecules transferred by males during mating. In Drosophila melanogaster, proteins in the seminal fluid are responsible for important female postmating responses, including temporal changes in egg production, elevated feeding rates and activity levels, reduced sexual receptivity, and activation of the immune system. It is unclear to what extent these changes are mutually beneficial to females and males or instead represent male manipulation. Here we use an experimental evolution approach in which females are randomly paired with a single male each generation, eliminating any opportunity for competition for mates or mate choice and thereby aligning the evolutionary interests of the sexes. After >150 generations of evolution, males from monogamous populations elicited a weaker postmating stimulation of egg production and activity than males from control populations that evolved with a polygamous mating system. Males from monogamous populations did not differ from males from polygamous populations in their ability to induce refractoriness to remating in females, but they were inferior to polygamous males in sperm competition. Mating-responsive genes in both the female abdomen and head showed a dampened response to mating with males from monogamous populations. Males from monogamous populations also exhibited lower expression of genes encoding seminal fluid proteins, which mediate the female response to mating. Together, these results demonstrate that the female postmating response, and the male molecules involved in eliciting this response, are shaped by ongoing sexual conflict.


Drosophila melanogaster; experimental evolution; seminal fluid proteins; sexual conflict; sexual selection

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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