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Regulation of olfactory-based sex behaviors in the silkworm by genes in the sex-determination cascade

By Jun Xu, Wei Liu, Dehong Yang, Shuqing Chen, Kai Chen, Zulian Liu, Xu Yang, Jing Meng, Guanheng Zhu, Shuanglin Dong, Yong Zhang, Shuai Zhan, Guirong Wang, Yongping Huang

Posted 24 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.24.917906 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008622)

Insect courtship and mating depend on integration of olfactory, visual, and tactile cues. Compared to other insects, Bombyx mori, the domesticated silkworm, has relatively simple sexual behaviors as it cannot fly. Here by using CRISPR/Cas and electrophysiological techniques we found that courtship and mating behaviors are regulated in male silk moths by mutating genes in the sex determination cascade belonging to two conserved pathways. Loss of Bmdsx gene expression significantly reduced the peripheral perception of the major pheromone component bombykol by reducing expression of the product of the BmOR1 gene which completely blocked courtship in adult males. Interestingly, we found that mating behavior was regulated independently by another sexual differentiation gene, Bmfru. Loss of Bmfru completely blocked mating, but males displayed normal courtship behavior. Lack of Bmfru expression significantly reduced the perception of the minor pheromone component bombykal due to the down regulation of BmOR3 expression; further, functional analysis revealed that loss of the product of BmOR3 played a key role in terminating male mating behavior. Our results suggest that Bmdsx and Bmfru are at the base of the two primary pathways that regulate olfactory-based sexual behavior.

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