"Nature vs. Nurture in Drosophila Courtship" Prof. Daisuke Yamamoto


Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 09:30 to 10:30


C209, Center Building


Prof. Daisuke Yamamoto
Department of Developmental Biology and Neuroscience
Tohoku University Graduate School of Life Sciences



The mechanism whereby genes and the environment interact to shape a behavior remains an enigma despite its tremendous importance in understanding human nature. Approximately 25 years ago, I discovered a clue to tackling this problem by isolating a Drosophila mutant that I named satori, males of which preferentially courted males rather than females without copulating (Yamamoto et al., 1991). Later, a genetic complementation test revealed that satori was allelic to fruitless (fru). Molecular cloning of the fru gene (Ito et al., 1996; Ryner et al., 1996) and neuroanatomical demonstration of sexual dimorphisms in fru-expressing neurons (Kimura et al., 2005) led to the notion that the fru gene functions as a master regulator of the development of courtship neural pathways, which operate as hard-wired circuitries to generate genetically determined courtship behavior. Thus genetic mutations in fru result in changes in the courtship target choice in these males. Recent studies (Kohatsu & Yamamoto, 2015; Pan & Baker, 2014) have challenged this view, by showing that inappropriate courtship is suppressed in fru mutants that are raised in isolation.

We have identified the courtship decision-making neuron cluster P1, which is composed of male-specific fru-expressing neurons (Kimura et al., 2008) and thus the effects of environmental factors on neural activities can be explored with single gene/single cell resolutions. Indeed, we have shown that P1 neurons in fru mutants respond differently to courtship-inducing stimuli depending on flies’ social experience (Kohatsu & Yamamoto, 2015). The fru gene products form a complex with chromatin factors (Ito et al., 2012), implicating epigenetic modulation as a possible mechanism of the gene-environment interplay during development and after adult emergence. This study will therefore provide us with a novel framework for the mechanistic understanding of the nature-nurture interactions in behavior.


Name: Daisuke YAMAMOTO

Doctoral degree field: D. Sc. (Zoology)

Degree date: June 30, 1981

Degree Institution: Hokkaido University

Current Employer: Tohoku University Graduate School of Life Sciences

Employment title: Professor

1976: Bachelor, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT), Japan. Plant protection

1978: M. Agr. Sci. at the Graduate School of TUAT (Entomology)

1981: D. Sc. (equivalent to Ph.D.) in Zoological Science at Hokkaido University (the thesis title: Electrophysiological studies on the neuromuscular system of insects)

1980-1999: Mitsubishi Kasei Institute of Life Sciences, Researcher (Neurophysiology)

1981-1983: Northwestern University Medical School, USA, Postdoctoral fellow (Pharmacology)

1994-2000: Yamamoto Behavior Genes Project, ERATO (Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology) under JST (Japan Science and Technology Corporation), Project Director

1999-2003: Waseda University, School of Human Sciences, Professor of Genetics.

2003-2005: Waseda University, School of Science and Engineering, Professor of Genetics.

2005-Present: Tohoku University Graduate School of Life Sciences, Professor of Neurogenetics

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Faculty Affairs Office: Kiyomi Iha (kiyomi.iha@oist.jp)
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