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Proc Biol Sci. 2001 Aug 22;268(1477):1647-54.

The Acp26Aa seminal fluid protein is a modulator of early egg hatchability in Drosophila melanogaster.

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The Galton Laboratory, Department of Biology, University College London, Wolfson House, 4 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HE, UK.


Drosophila melanogaster male accessory gland proteins (Acps) that are transferred in the ejaculate with sperm mediate post-mating competition for fertilizations between males. The actions of Acps include effects on oviposition and ovulation, receptivity and sperm storage. Two Acps that modulate egg production are Acp26Aa (ovulin) and Acp70A (the sex peptide). Acp26Aa acts specifically on the process of ovulation (the release of mature eggs from the ovaries), which is initiated 1.5 h after mating. In contrast, sperm storage can take as long as 6-9 h to complete. Initial ovulations after matings by virgin females will therefore occur before all sperm are fully stored and the extra eggs initially laid as a result of Acp26Aa transfer are expected to be inefficiently fertilized. Acp26Aa-mediated release of existing eggs should not cause a significant energetic cost or lead to a decrease in female lifespan assuming, as seems likely, that the energetic cost of egg laying comes from de novo egg synthesis (oogenesis) rather than from ovulation. We tested these predictions using Acp26Aa(1) mutant males that lack Acp26Aa but are normal for other Acps and Acp26Aa(2) males that transfer a truncated but fully functional Acp26Aa protein. Females mating with Acp26Aa(2) (truncation) males that received functional Acp26Aa produced significantly more eggs following their first matings than did mates of Acp26Aa(1) (null) males. However, as predicted above, these extra eggs, which were laid as a result of Acp26Aa transfer to virgin females, showed significantly lower egg hatchability. Control experiments indicated that this lower hatchability was due to lower rates of fertilization at early post-mating times. There was no drop in egg hatchability in subsequent non-virgin matings. In addition, as predicted above, females that did or did not receive Acp26Aa did not differ in survival, lifetime fecundity or lifetime progeny, indicating that Acp26Aa transfer does not represent a significant energetic cost for females and does not contribute to the survival cost of mating. Acp26Aa appears to remove a block to oogenesis by causing the clearing out of existing mature eggs and, thus, indirectly allowing oogenesis to be initiated immediately after mating. The results show that subtle processes coordinate the stimulation of egg production and sperm storage in mating pairs.

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