Abstracts (first author)
A Turandot family gene promotes immunity against sexually transmitted fungal infections in Drosophila melanogasterPDF
Although it is well known that mating increases the risk of infection, we do not know whether females have adaptive responses to mitigate the fitness costs of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The major problem has been that we lack a suitable model host/pathogen system for studying the costs of STIs. Recently, Turandot-M (TotM), a member of the Turandot family of genes involved in immune and stress response, has been shown to be upregulated in female Drosophila melanogaster when they hear male courtship songs. Here we use the Gal4/UAS RNAi gene knockdown system to test whether TotM provides survival and fecundity benefits for females that mate with fungus-infected males. We show that when the fungus, Metarhizium robertsii, is sexually transmitted it reduces female reproductive output across all fly lines. By comparing the knockdown line (Gal4/UAS-TotM) with control lines (Gal4/+ and UAS-TotM/+), we found that TotM provides a survival benefit for females infected with an STI and a survival cost for healthy females. Interestingly, TotM does not provide a benefit for females under direct topical infection with M. robertsii. Together these results show that TotM plays a previously-overlooked role in defence against STIs and it suggests that females use auditory cues to anticipate the immune challenges that come with mating.