Environmental stress is a major factor that affects courtship behavior and evolutionary fitness. Although mature virgin females of Drosophila melanogaster usually accept a courting male to mate, they may not mate under stressful conditions. Above the temperature optimal for mating (20–25 °C), copulation success of D. melanogaster declines with increasing temperature although we observed vigorous courtship attempts by males, and no copulation takes place at temperatures over 36 °C. We attempted to identify the sensory pathway for detecting heat threat that drives a female to escape rather than to engage in mating that detects hot temperature and suppresses courtship behavior. We found that the artificial activation of warmth-sensitive neurons (‘hot cells’) in the antennal arista of females completely abrogates female copulation success even at permissive temperatures below 32 °C. Moreover, mutational loss of the GR28b.d thermoreceptor protein caused females to copulate even at 36 °C. These results indicate that antennal hot cells provide the input channel for detecting the high ambient temperature in the control of virgin female mating under stressful conditions.
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