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Large-scale characterization of sex pheromone communication systems in Drosophila

By Mohammed A. Khallaf, Rongfeng Cui, Jerrit Weissflog, Ales Svatos, Hany K. M. Dweck, Dario Riccardo Valenzano, Bill S Hansson, Markus Knaden

Posted 22 Sep 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.21.305854

Insects use sex pheromones as a reproductive isolating mechanism to attract conspecifics and repel heterospecifics. Despite the profound knowledge of sex pheromones, little is known about the coevolutionary mechanisms and constraints on their production and detection. Using whole-genome sequences to infer the kinship among 99 drosophilids, we investigate how phylogenetic and chemical traits have interacted at a wide evolutionary timescale. Through a series of chemical syntheses and electrophysiological recordings, we identify 51 sex-specific compounds, many of which are detected via olfaction. Behavioral analyses reveal that many of the 42 male-specific compounds are transferred to the female during copulation and mediate female receptivity and/or male courtship inhibition. Measurement of phylogenetic signals demonstrates that sex pheromones and their cognate olfactory channels evolve rapidly and independently over evolutionary time to guarantee efficient intra- and inter-specific communication systems. Our results show how sexual isolation barriers between species can be reinforced by species-specific olfactory signals. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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