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Genetics. Jan 1995; 139(1): 189–201.
PMCID: PMC1206317

Variation in Sperm Displacement and Its Association with Accessory Gland Protein Loci in Drosophila Melanogaster


Genes that influence mating and/or fertilization success may be targets for strong natural selection. If females remate frequently relative to the duration of sperm storage and rate of sperm use, sperm displacement may be an important component of male reproductive success. Although it has long been known that mutant laboratory stocks of Drosophila differ in sperm displacement, the magnitude of the naturally occurring genetic variation in this character has not been systematically quantified. Here we report the results of a screen for variation in sperm displacement among 152 lines of Drosophilia melanogaster that were made homozygous for second and/or third chromosomes recovered from natural populations. Sperm displacement was assayed by scoring the progeny of cn;bw females that had been mated sequentially to cn;bw and tested males in either order. Highly significant differences were seen in both the ability to displace sperm that is resident in the female's reproductive tract and in the ability to resist displacement by subsequent sperm. Most lines exhibited nearly complete displacement, having nearly all progeny sired by the second male, but several lines had as few as half the progeny fathered by the second male. Lines that were identified in the screen for naturally occurring variation in sperm displacement were also characterized for single-strand conformation polymorphisms (SSCP) at seven accessory gland protein (Acp) genes, Glucose dehydrogenase (Gld), and Esterase-6 (Est-6). Acp genes encode proteins that are in some cases known to be transmitted to the female in the seminal fluid and are likely candidates for genes that might mediate the phenomenon of sperm displacement. Significant associations were found between particular Acp alleles at four different loci (Acp26Aa/Ab, Acp29B, Acp36DE and Acp53E) and the ability of males to resist displacement by subsequent sperm. There was no correlation between the ability to displace resident sperm and the ability to resist being displaced by subsequent sperm. This lack of correlation, and the association of Acp alleles with resisting subsequent sperm only, suggests that different mechanisms mediate the two components of sperm displacement.

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Selected References

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