P1 neurons have two important properties (Figure 1): first, they are located in the lateral protocerebrum, a higher brain center that receives sensory input from olfactory, gustatory, click here visual, and auditory systems. Second, P1 neurons are present only in males. Thus, these cells appear to be ideal candidates to integrate multi-modal environmental stimuli to make the decision to court in males, but not in females. Earlier work from the Yamamoto laboratory had, in fact, already implicated P1 neurons in regulating male courtship (Kimura et al., 2008); in that study, they found that selective masculinization of the
female lateral protocerebrum—by generating clones mutant for transformer, a regulator of sex determination—resulted in ectopic appearance of P1 neurons and a low level of male courtship-like behavior in these otherwise female individuals. On the other hand, conditional
inhibition of synaptic transmission in P1 neurons in the male brain reduced singing and other courtship elements ( Kimura et al., 2008), findings that are confirmed and extended in the new work ( Kohatsu et al., 2011 and von Philipsborn et al., 2011). Thus, activity of P1 neurons is both necessary and sufficient to trigger male love song production. Moreover, because they do Palbociclib in vivo not appear to influence the structure of pulse song and also play a role in initiating other courtship behaviors, these interneurons may form part of the decision center in the courtship circuitry. How do P1 neurons integrate functionally into a decision-making circuit? Kohatsu et al. (2011) looked upstream by asking whether their physiological activity is regulated by sensory stimuli that control male courtship. To do this, they developed a versatile “tethered male” preparation
in which courtship behavior towards a specific object can be assessed simultaneously with optical imaging of neural activity in the brain. Presentation of a female, but not male, fly to the tethered animal was sufficient to trigger many characteristic elements of the courtship ritual, including wing vibration. Notably, initiation of robust behavioral Cytidine deaminase responses required physical contact between the male and the female, suggesting that gustatory, rather than olfactory or visual, stimuli provide the cue to trigger this behavior. Indeed, extracts from female cuticles (which contain sex pheromones [Ferveur, 2005]) were also sufficient to evoke courtship initiation, although the behavioral response did not persist in the absence of other stimuli. Using the genetically encoded calcium sensor, Cameleon, these authors then showed that P1 neurons displayed rapid calcium increases upon contact of the male with a female, consistent with the hypothesis that P1 neurons mediate the decision to initiate courtship upon receipt of sensory signals from female pheromones. Courtship is also regulated by the volatile chemical cis-vaccenyl acetate.