Seminal fluid proteins in sexual selection and life-history

Main image for Seminal fluid proteins in sexual selection and life-history

Drosophila male accessory glands, the site of seminal fluid protein production.

When mating occurs, males transfer much more to females than just sperm cells. The seminal fluid contains a cocktail of proteins that can have dramatic effects on both male and female reproductive success. Some of these proteins evolve extremely rapidly, whilst others are highly evolutionarily conserved: but few are functionally characterised, despite their importance in fertility and health. Our lab investigates the role of these proteins, with a focus on sexual selection and life-history evolution.

In Drosophila, as in many species, the male seminal fluid proteins are essential for fertility, and cause a profound remodelling of female physiology and behaviour: for example, they can increase female fecundity, reduce female receptivity and modulate female lifespan. We investigate how males allocate seminal proteins to females, how these proteins influence the fate of male sperm and the rate of female ageing, and to what extent the seminal proteome changes with age and the social environment.