6730-6735 | PNAS | April 17, 2007 | vol. 104 | no. 16

The species, sex, and stage specificity of a Caenorhabditis sex pheromone

J. R. Chasnov, W. K. So, C. M. Chan, and K. L. Chow
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Four species in the ELEGANS group of the subgenus Caenorhabditis are distinguished by two very different mating systems:  androdioecy in C. elegans and C. briggsae with males and self-fertilizing hermaphrodites and dioecy in C. remanei and C. sp. strain CB5161 with males and females.  Using chemotaxis assays, we demonstrate that females secrete a potent sex pheromone that attracts males from a distance, whereas hermaphrodites do not.  The female sex pheromone is not species-specific, with males of all four species attracted to both the C. remanei and C. sp. female sex pheromones.  The pheromone is, however, sex-specific, with only females secreting the pheromone and attracting only males.  Furthermore, the sex pheromone is stage-specific, with female secretion and male detection of the pheromone beginning near adulthood.  Females lose their attractiveness immediately after mating but regain it several hours after mating ceases.  Finally, the female somatic gonad is required for sex-pheromone production, and the male-specific cephalic neurons (CEM) are required for male response. 

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