Male courtship in fruit flies consists of well-defined steps including orienting toward the female, tapping, licking, singing a courtship song and finally mating. We study courtship behavior by combining a male and a virgin female in a “mating chamber” and by observing and quantifying the male’s performance. This allows us to study the effect of mutations and to identify genes and molecular pathways that regulate mating behavior.
It is well established by work from many other labs that specific regions in the brain of a male are important for successful courtship. They need to be set up and wired in a male fashion to confer the competence to perform male behavior.
In addition, work in our lab has shown that non-neuronal tissues play an important role in the regulation of courtship: The fat body that produces circulating male-specific factors, and the blood brain barrier that separates circulating factors from the brain.