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Research interests

PhD project:  Neurogenetic dissection of a sexual conflict in Drosophila melanogaster

Research interests

Sexual conflict (SC) shapes the evolution of reproductive behaviours. It manifests itself in male traits that limit female reproductive choices, generating selection for female counter-adaptations. Evolutionary
biologists proposed that SC causes cycles of adaptation-counteradaptation producing complex sexual interactions with little purpose other than stimulatory effectiveness. This is of interest for studies of the neuronal circuit underlying sexual behaviours because it suggests that those circuits have not only evolved for stimulus–response but also have layers of modulation resulting from their hijacking by the other sex. This project will test this hypothesis in Drosophila melanogaster, where SC is well documented and cuttingedge neurogenetic tools allow functional neuronal circuit dissection. Our data indicate that female neurons expressing the sex peptide receptor advance female ejaculate ejection, a behaviour preparing females for remating. An unidentified population of these neurons are targeted by the male sex peptide to delay ejaculate ejection, showing hijacking of the neuronal circuit for sperm ejection instead of a stimulus-response. We will use intersectional genetic tools combined with optogenetics and RNA interference to
define the female neurons that are targeted by male sex peptide. To define the stimulus-response part of the circuit, we will identify female sensory receptors that detect the presence of males and advance ejaculate ejection, using candidate gene and transcriptomics approach. These sensory neurons will be connected with those modulating ejaculate ejection using trans-synaptic labelling techniques. By dissecting a neuronal circuit that has evolved under SC, we will test the hypothetical impact of SC on generating brain

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