Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology vol:41 issue:5 pages:340-347
In Drosophila melanogaster, the male-specific splice isoform of the fruitless gene (Fru(M)) codes for a set of transcription factors that are involved in the regulation of male courtship and copulation. Fru(M) is expressed in an interconnected neuronal circuit containing central and sensory neurons as well as motor neurons. A partial sequence from the Schistocerca gregaria fru-gene from an EST database allowed quantitative real time analysis of fru-expression in adult locusts, and revealed the highest expression in the testes, accessory glands as well as the brain (and optic lobes). Starting fru specific RNAi knockdown in the third and fourth nymphal stage resulted in a significantly lower cumulative copulation frequency of the RNAi-treated animals compared to controls after 3 h of observation. In addition, the testes of RNAi-treated males weigh less. Analysis of the egg pods resulting from a successful copulation event revealed that egg pods from females that mated with an RNAi-treated male were smaller and contained less fertilized eggs compared to egg pods from females who mated with control males. Starting injections in the fifth nymphal stage showed the complete opposite for the cumulative copulation frequency and testes weight. We conclude that already in the early nymphal phases of male desert locusts, fruitless starts to play an important role in the regulation of successful copulation in the adult. The RNAi treatment in the male has also its effects on fertility and fecundity. It remains unknown whether this effect is coming from aberrant courtship behaviour or from an altered composition of the sperm or seminal fluids.