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PLOS ONE  2012 

Dietary Effects on Cuticular Hydrocarbons and Sexual Attractiveness in Drosophila

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049799

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Dietary composition is known to have profound effects on many aspects of animal physiology, including lifespan, general health, and reproductive potential. We have previously shown that aging and insulin signaling significantly influence the composition and sexual attractiveness of Drosophila melanogaster female cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), some of which are known to be sex pheromones. Because diet is intimately linked to aging and to the activity of nutrient-sensing pathways, we asked how diet affects female CHCs and attractiveness. Here we report consistent and significant effects of diet composition on female CHC profiles across ages, with dietary yeast and sugar driving CHC changes in opposite directions. Surprisingly, however, we found no evidence that these changes affect female attractiveness. Multivariate comparisons among responses of CHC profiles to diet, aging, and insulin signaling suggest that diet may alter the levels of some CHCs in a way that results in profiles that are more attractive while simultaneously altering other CHCs in a way that makes them less attractive. For example, changes in short-chain CHCs induced by a high-yeast diet phenocopy changes caused by aging and by decreased insulin signaling, both of which result in less attractive females. On the other hand, changes in long-chain CHCs in response to the same diet result in levels that are comparable to those observed in attractive young females and females with increased insulin signaling. The effects of a high-sugar diet tend in the opposite direction, as levels of short-chain CHCs resemble those in attractive females with increased insulin signaling and changes in long-chain CHCs are similar to those caused by decreased insulin signaling. Together, these data suggest that diet-dependent changes in female CHCs may be sending conflicting messages to males.


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