Seminar: Dr. Scott Juntti (University of Maryland College Park)

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Seminar: Dr. Scott Juntti (University of Maryland College Park)

September 27, 2023 at 12:00pm

Title: Finding love in Lake Tanganyika: The dual roles of prostaglandins and pheromones

Speaker: Dr. Scott Juntti (University of Maryland College Park)

Host: Dr. Ten-Tsao Wong 

Abstract: Reproduction requires detecting cues that indicate species, sex, and status of potential partners. Animals’ signals reflect their internal state, while perception of this information is biased by the reproductive status of the receiver. However, the mechanisms that modulate sending and receiving these signals are unclear. We take advantage of reproductive behavior in the cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, which is genetically manipulable and exhibits quantifiable behavioral routines. Progestin and prostaglandin F2a (PGF) have been previously implicated as key signals that convey fertility status from reproductive tract to brain in many vertebrate species. PGF injection rapidly triggers naturalistic spawning behavior. Conversely, CRISPR-mediated deletions of either the progestin receptor (pgr) or the PGF receptor (ptgfr) result in a complete abolition of female spawning behaviors. These and other results suggest a model in which PR modulates transcription of Ptgfr and increased sensitivity to PGF. PGF in turn activates Ptgfr in key regions of the brain to rapidly drive spawning behavior after ovulation. Furthermore, fertile female cichlids release a metabolite of PGF into the environment, attracting reproductive males. Through single-cell transcriptomics, we identify genes essential for specific channels of olfaction; silencing specific olfactory neurons abolishes attraction to this cue and males perform female-typical parental behaviors. We identify an olfactory receptor activated by this pheromonal signal, and delineate its evolutionary history. Thus, our work reveals genetically defined pathways by which hormones regulate social interactions in both fertile females and courting males. 

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