A neuropeptide circuit that coordinates sperm transfer and copulation duration in Drosophila

Timothy D. Tayler, Diego A. Pacheco, Anne C. Hergarden, Mala Murthy, David J. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Innate behaviors are often executed in concert with accompanying physiological programs. How this coordination is achieved is poorly understood. Mating behavior and the transfer of sperm and seminal fluid (SSFT) provide a model for understanding how concerted behavioral and physiological programs are coordinated. Here we identify a male-specific neural pathway that coordinates the timing of SSFT with the duration of copulation behavior in Drosophila. Silencing four abdominal ganglion (AG) interneurons (INs) that contain the neuropeptide corazonin (Crz) both blocked SSFT and substantially lengthened copulation duration. Activating these Crz INs caused rapid ejaculation in isolated males, a phenotype mimicked by injection of Crz peptide. Crz promotes SSFT by activating serotonergic (5-HT) projection neurons (PNs) that innervate the accessory glands. Activation of these PNs in copulo caused premature SSFT and also shortened copulation duration. However, mating terminated normally when these PNs were silenced, indicating that SSFT is not required for appropriate copulation duration. Thus, the lengthened copulation duration phenotype caused by silencing Crz INs is independent of the block to SSFT. We conclude that four Crz INs independently control SSFT and copulation duration, thereby coupling the timing of these two processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20697-20702
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 11 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Fruitless
  • Neural circuit
  • Sexual dimorphism


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