Courtship behaviours are common features of animal species that reproduce sexually. Typically, males are involved in courting females. Insects display an astonishing variety of courtship strategies primarily based on innate stereotyped responses to various external stimuli. In Drosophila melanogaster, male courtship requires proteins encoded by the fruitless (fru) gene that are produced in different sex-specific isoforms via alternative splicing. Drosophila mutant flies with loss-of-function alleles of the fru gene exhibit blocked male courtship behaviour. However, various individual steps in the courtship ritual are disrupted in fly strains carrying different fru alleles. These findings suggest that fru is required for specific steps in courtship. In distantly related insect species, various fru paralogues were isolated, which shows conservation of sex-specific alternative splicing and protein expression in neural tissues and suggests an evolutionary functional conservation of fru in the control of male-specificcourtship behaviour. In this review, we report the seminal findings regarding the fru gene, its splicing regulation and evolution in insects.
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