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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts |News Archive Dec 2, 2013

 

Female pheromones have a significant effects on the male fruitfly's lifespan and health.







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Fruit flies with better sex lives live longer

Can sexual frustration be bad for your health? Male fruit flies that expected sex — and didn't get it — experienced serious health consequences and aged faster.

Sex may in fact be one of the secrets to good health, youth and a longer life – at least for fruit flies – suggests a new University of Michigan study that appears in the journal Science.

Male fruit flies that perceived sexual pheromones of their female counterparts – without the opportunity to mate – experienced rapid decreases in fat stores, resistance to starvation and more stress. The sexually frustrated flies lived shorter lives.


Mating, on the other hand, partially reversed the negative effects on [fruitfly] health and aging.


"Our findings give us a better understanding about how sensory perception and physiological state are integrated in the brain to affect long-term health and lifespan," says senior author Scott D. Pletcher, Ph.D, professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the U-M Medical School and research professor at the U-M Geriatrics Center.

"The cutting-edge genetics and neurobiology used in this research suggests to us that for fruit flies at least, it may not be a myth that sexual frustration is a health issue. Expecting sex without any sexual reward was detrimental to their health and cut their lives short."

U-M scientists used sensory manipulations to give the common male fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, the perception that they were in a sexually rich environment by exposing them to genetically engineered males that produced female pheromones. They were also able to manipulate the specific neurons responsible for pheromone perception as well as parts of the brain linked to sexual reward (secreting a group of compounds associated with anxiety and sex drive).


"This data may provide the first direct evidence that aging and physiology are influenced by how the brain processes expectations and rewards. In this case, sexual rewards specifically promoted healthy aging."

Scott D. Pletcher, Ph.D, professor, Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan Medical School and research professor, University of Michigan Geriatrics Center


Fruit flies have been a powerful tool for studying aging because they live on average 60 days yet many of the discoveries in flies have proven effective in longer-lived animals, such as mice.

For decades, one of the most powerful ways to slow aging in different species was by limiting their food intake. In a previous study, Pletcher and his colleagues found that the smell of food alone was enough to speed up aging, offering new context for how dietary restriction works.

Abstract
Sensory perception modulates aging and physiology across taxa. We found that perception of female sexual pheromones through a specific gustatory receptor expressed in a subset of foreleg neurons in male fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, rapidly and reversibly decreases fat stores, reduces resistance to starvation, and limits life span together with neurons that express the reward-mediating neuropeptide F. High-throughput RNA-seq experiments revealed a set of molecular processes that were impacted by the activity of the longevity circuit, thereby identifying new candidate cell non-autonomous aging mechanisms. Mating reversed the effects of pheromone perception, suggesting a model where life span is modulated through integration of sensory and reward circuits and where healthy aging may be compromised when the expectations defined by sensory perception are discordant with ensuing experience.

Christi M. Gendron1,*, Tsung-Han Kuo2,*, Zachary M. Harvanek1,3, Brian Y. Chung1, Joanne Y. Yew4,5, Herman A. Dierick2, Scott D. Pletcher1
+ Author Affiliations
1Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Geriatrics Center, Biomedical Sciences and Research Building, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
2Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
3Medical Scientist Training Program, Taubman Medical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
4Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117604.
5Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117543.
†Corresponding author. E-mail: spletch@umich.edu
↵* These authors contributed equally to this work.


Additional Authors: Christi M. Gendron, of U-M.; Tsung-Han Kuo, of Baylor College of Medicine; Zachary M. Harvanek, of U-M; Brian Y. Chung, of U-M; Joanne Y. Yew, of the National University of Singapore; and Herman A. Dierick, of Baylor College of Medicine.

Disclosures: None

Funding: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Aging (Grants (R01AG030593, TR01AG043972, and R01AG023166) and a Senior Scholar in Aging Award from the Ellison Medical Foundation.

Reference: "Drosophila lifespan and physiology are modulated by sexual perception and reward," Science, November, 2013.