Caenorhabditis elegans Male Copulation Circuitry Incorporates Sex-Shared Defecation Components To Promote Intromission and Sperm Transfer.
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Sexual dimorphism can be achieved using a variety of mechanisms, including sex-specific circuits and sex-specific function of shared circuits, though how these work together to produce sexually dimorphic behaviors requires further investigation. Here, we explore how components of the sex-shared defecation circuitry are incorporated into the sex-specific male mating circuitry in Caenorhabditis elegans to produce successful copulation. Using behavioral studies, calcium imaging, and genetic manipulation, we show that aspects of the defecation system are coopted by the male copulatory circuitry to facilitate intromission and ejaculation. Similar to hermaphrodites, male defecation is initiated by an intestinal calcium wave, but circuit activity is coordinated differently during mating. In hermaphrodites, the tail neuron DVB promotes expulsion of gut contents through the release of the neurotransmitter GABA onto the anal depressor muscle. However, in the male, both neuron and muscle take on modified functions to promote successful copulation. Males require calcium-dependent activator protein for secretion (CAPS)/unc-31, a dense core vesicle exocytosis activator protein, in the DVB to regulate copulatory spicule insertion, while the anal depressor is remodeled to promote release of sperm into the hermaphrodite. This work shows how sex-shared circuitry is modified in multiple ways to contribute to sex-specific mating.