In Drosophila melanogaster, much of our understanding of sexually dimorphic neuronal development and function comes from the study of male behavior, leaving female behavior less well understood. Here, we identify a post-embryonic population of Insulin-like peptide 7 (Ilp7)-expressing neurons in the posterior ventral nerve cord that innervate the reproductive tracts and exhibit a female bias in their function. They form two distinct dorsal and ventral subsets in females, but only a single dorsal subset in males, signifying a rare example of a female-specific neuronal subset. Female post-embryonic Ilp7 neurons are glutamatergic motoneurons innervating the oviduct and are required for female fertility. In males, they are serotonergic/glutamatergic neuromodulatory neurons innervating the seminal vesicle but are not required for male fertility. In both sexes, these neurons express the sex-differentially spliced fruitless-P1 transcript but not doublesex. The male fruitless-P1 isoform (fruM) was necessary and sufficient for serotonin expression in the shared dorsal Ilp7 subset, but although it was necessary for eliminating female-specific Ilp7 neurons in males, it was not sufficient for their elimination in females. By contrast, sex-specific RNA-splicing by female-specific transformer is necessary for female-type Ilp7 neurons in females and is sufficient for their induction in males. Thus, the emergence of female-biased post-embryonic Ilp7 neurons is mediated in a subset-specific manner by a tra- and fru-dependent mechanism in the shared dorsal subset, and a tra-dependent, fru-independent mechanism in the female-specific subset. These studies provide an important counterpoint to studies of the development and function of male-biased neuronal dimorphism in Drosophila.
- Accepted July 10, 2013.