Thursday, August 19, 2010

gut sex

The Scientist | Jo Handelsman discusses a paper that found gut microbiota can influence sexual fitness in an invasive pest.

The Mediterranean fruit fly is one of the most damaging agricultural pests in the world. A common strategy to reduce its population consists of releasing sterilized industrially grown flies out into the wild in the hopes that they will steal females from virile males. It turns out, however, that the sterilized males are not as lucky in getting the attention of the ladies. A recent paper—selected by F1000 Faculty Member Jo Handelsman, a microbiologist at Yale—has a surprising explanation for the altered males’ inability to attract females: their gut microbiota ( ISME J , 4:28-37, 2010).

TS: Why would intestinal microbes affect the sexual performance of an organism?

JH: We know that the gut microbiota of many organisms controls the most surprising breadths of activities and physiology. In humans we’re finding that gut microbiota affects obesity, and sleep cycles perhaps, heart disease, diabetes, and all sorts of things that we never connected with microbial function before. The gut is emerging as perhaps the most important organ on the body for regulating health and disease, and that’s mainly through the functions of the bacteria that live there. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that bacteria may also affect sexual behavior and performance.

TS: Is this the first link between gut microbes and sexual behavior?

JH: As far as I know, yes.


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