C. elegans hermaphrodites undergo substantial behavioral changes as they age through adulthood, in a manner related largely to the depletion of self-sperm. These changes include the production of a volatile male-attracting pheromone, a change in how the worm physically reacts to male mating attempts, and an increase in leaving behavior. It is suspected that these behavioral changes serve to increase the chance of a successful mating attempt. Hermaphrodites that are incapable of producing self-sperm, such as fog-2 mutants, exhibit some of these age-related behaviors even in young adulthood. Last year, we demonstrated that the production of volatile pheromone is linked not simply to the presence of sperm, but more specifically to the interaction between mature sperm and mature oocytes within the gonad. This interaction is then communicated to one or more somatic cells. In an effort to understand the transcriptional changes that are triggered by this germline-soma signalling event, we have collected and analyzed RNA from wild-type (N2) and fog-2 hermaphrodites at both young and aged stages of adulthood. This data may reveal the regulation of not only volatile pheromone production, but also other behavioral changes observed in spermless hermaphrodites. By using RNAseq, we have obtained a transcriptome of aged N2 hermaphrodites of substantially higher resolution than any that has been previously published. We have also uncovered substantial transcriptional differences between aged N2 and aged fog-2 hermaphrodites, which are physiologically similar, but have different reproductive histories. By screening strains with mutations in genes that showed a high correlation with attractiveness, we have identified mutant strains that show abnormally low attractiveness to males even in a spermless state. The data also reveals an enrichment of genes associated with membrane remodelling only in aging wild type hermaphrodites, which may be indicative of physical changes that occur only in reproductive animals.
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