Chromatin-based Reprogramming of Courtship Regulators With Social Experience

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Organisms are presented with a wide variety of environmental stimuli and must interpret and respond to these cues in to perform a wide variety of behaviors, such as foraging, mating, fleeing, and fighting. The ability of an organism to recognize various stimuli, such as pheromones, to identify mates or competitors through the activation of various circuits and molecular components in the brain is tightly regulated. In order to delineate how molecular changes occur in the brain during stimuli response we used Drosophila melanogaster as it has a well-defined nervous system. We focus in on the circuit which regulates sex-specific mating behaviors in male D. melanogaster. Sex-specific splicing regulates the expression of two genes known as fruitless (fruM) and doublesex (dsxM) in the courtship circuit. Here we demonstrate using in the fly olfactory system that Olfactory receptor 47b (Or47b) and Olfactory receptor 67d (Or67d) activity, through sensory experience, regulates the expression patterns of male-specific fruM through coincident activity of hormone binding transcription factors Gce and Met and histone acetyltransferase P300 activity. We also identify various genes which changes in various mutant and social contexts, including exon specific changes in fruitless transcripts as well as changes in the expression of hormone metabolism genes, and neuromodulators in antennae. Given these changes in neuromodulators and the known structure of the FruM and DsxM central circuits, we looked at changes in the chromatin state and expression levels and find changes in peripheral sensory neurons have downstream effects on higher order circuits. We identify that FruM regulates the chromatin structure of both itself and dsxM in whole brain lysates and that changes in chromatin structure depend on pheromone receptor and neurotransmitter activity across processing centers in the brain. Taken together, we identify potential candidates for future study, as well as lay the framework for understanding how sensory changes in the periphery have effects on various neuronal clusters in the brain.






Deanhardt, Bryson Keith (2021). Chromatin-based Reprogramming of Courtship Regulators With Social Experience. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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