Evidence that the microbiota counteracts male outbreeding strategy by inhibiting sexual signaling in females

Abstract : The microbiota is increasingly being recognized as having important impacts on many host biological processes. However, evidence of its effects on animal communication and breeding strategy is lacking. In this three-factorial study, we show that females were more willing to mate with related males, with relatedness likely being assessed through the microbiota. By contrast, male mating investment is concurrently determined by both the relatedness and microbiota status of the female. When the microbiota in female Drosophila melanogaster is altered by an antibiotic, male investment in sperm number increased when mating with unrelated females compared to related ones. Contrastingly, the presence of an intact microbiota in females canceled this male outbreeding strategy. As a consequence, the microbiota, when intact, decreased the fitness of the mating couple. Furthermore, we showed that female sexual signaling (cuticular hydrocarbons), with regards to kin recognition, significantly interacts with microbiota. Interestingly, the interaction is significant for hydrocarbons expressed by both sexes, but not for female-specific compounds. Taken together, our results suggest that microbiota can influence kin recognition by disfavoring male outbreeding strategies, likely by inhibiting key olfactory sexual signaling. This represents the first evidence of a host outbreeding strategy counteracted by their microbiota. © 2018 Heys, Lizé, Colinet, Price, Prescott, Ingleby and Lewis.
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C. Heys, A. Lizé, H. Colinet, T.A.R. Price, M. Prescott, et al.. Evidence that the microbiota counteracts male outbreeding strategy by inhibiting sexual signaling in females. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2018, 6 (MAR), pp.29. ⟨10.3389/fevo.2018.00029⟩. ⟨hal-01773885⟩

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