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Keywords:

  • Drosophila melanogaster;
  • courtship;
  • mushroom body;
  • central complex;
  • shibire

Abstract

Drosophila male courtship is a complex and robust behavior, the potential for which is genetically built into specific neural circuits in the central nervous system. Previous studies using male-female mosaics and the flies with defects in particular brain structures implicated the critical central regions involved in male courtship behavior. However, their acute physiological roles in courtship regulation still largely remain unknown. Using the temperature-sensitive Dynamin mutation, shibirets1, here we demonstrate the significance of two major brain structures, the mushroom bodies and the central complex, in experience-independent aspects of male courtship. We show that blocking of synaptic transmission in the mushroom body intrinsic neurons significantly delays courtship initiation and reduces the courtship activity by shortening the courtship bout length when virgin females are used as a sexual target. Interestingly, however, the same treatment affects neither initiation nor maintenance of courtship toward young males that release courtship-stimulating pheromones different from those of virgin females. In contrast, blocking of synaptic transmission in a central complex substructure, the fan-shaped body, slightly but significantly reduces courtship activity toward both virgin females and young males with little effect on courtship initiation. Taken together, our results indicate that the neuronal activity in the mushroom bodies plays an important role in responding to female-specific sex pheromones that stimulate initiation and maintenance of male courtship behavior, whereas the fan-shaped body neurons are involved in maintenance of male courtship regardless of the nature of courtship-stimulating cues. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol, 2006