Female Genetic Contributions to Sperm Competition in …

Posted: May 23, 2019 at 2:45 am

Abstract

In many species, sperm can remain viable in the reproductive tract of a female well beyond the typical interval to remating. This creates an opportunity for sperm from different males to compete for oocyte fertilization inside the female's reproductive tract. In Drosophila melanogaster, sperm characteristics and seminal fluid content affect male success in sperm competition. On the other hand, although genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have demonstrated that female genotype plays a role in sperm competition outcome as well, the biochemical, sensory and physiological processes by which females detect and selectively use sperm from different males remain elusive. Here, we functionally tested 26 candidate genes implicated via a GWAS for their contribution to the female's role in sperm competition, measured as changes in the relative success of the first male to mate (P1). Of these 26 candidates, we identified eight genes that affect P1 when knocked down in females, and showed that five of them do so when knocked down in the female nervous system. In particular, Rim knockdown in sensory pickpocket (ppk)+ neurons lowered P1, confirming previously published results, and a novel candidate, caup, lowered P1 when knocked down in octopaminergic Tdc2+ neurons. These results demonstrate that specific neurons in the female's nervous system play a functional role in sperm competition and expand our understanding of the genetic, neuronal and mechanistic basis of female responses to multiple matings. We propose that these neurons in females are used to sense and integrate signals from courtship or ejaculates, to modulate sperm competition outcome accordingly.

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