Molecular mechanisms and the conflict between courtship and aggression in three-spined sticklebacks

Yibayiri O. Sanogo, Alison M. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In nature, animals often face conflicting demands. For example, breeding males must attract a mate but at the same time be ready to defend against rivals. The molecular mechanisms by which the brain resolves behavioural trade-offs are largely unknown. In this study, we compared the brain transcriptional responses of territorial male three-spined sticklebacks to a mating opportunity with a female and to a territorial challenge by a rival male. We focused on the diencephalon and the cerebellum, two regions of the brain implicated in courtship and aggression. There was a set of genes that were differentially expressed in response to both a courtship opportunity and a territorial challenge. Closer inspection of the direction of regulation revealed that genes that were downregulated in response to a courtship opportunity were upregulated in response to a territorial challenge and vice versa. Our study reveals some of the potential molecular mechanisms underlying behavioural trade-offs between sex and aggression, along with a possible solution to the conflict via social context-dependent gene regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4368-4376
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Gasterosteus aculeatus
  • behavioural syndrome
  • gene expression
  • limited plasticity
  • microarray
  • sociogenomics
  • territoriality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Molecular mechanisms and the conflict between courtship and aggression in three-spined sticklebacks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this