Behaviour 2019
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Prostaglandin F Drives Reproductive Female Pheromone Signaling in an African Cichlid
Cheng-Yu Li, Karli Lawrence, John Merlo-Coyne, Scott Juntti. University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States

Pheromones play essential roles in communication and reproduction in many species. Prostaglandin F (PGF) acts as a female reproductive hormone to elicit mating behavior, and also acts as a sex pheromone to induce male courtship in some species. Here, we use an African cichlid, Astatotilapia burtoni, to investigate the role of PGF in mediating female pheromonal signaling to conspecific males. Our data reveal that adult males, but not adult females or juveniles, can distinguish gravid versus non-gravid females solely by olfactory cues. Interestingly, injection of the prostaglandin synthesis inhibitor, indomethacin, abolishes attractivity of gravid females. Though males are insensitive to PGF, they exhibit a strong preference for females injected with PGF. Additionally, gravid-female and PGF-injected female odors induce significantly more neural activation in male’s olfactory epithelium, particularly in ciliated olfactory sensory neurons. To conclude, PGF itself is not a pheromone to directly induce male preference in cichlids, but it plays a vital role in initiating physiological responses to prime females to become attractive.