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Am Nat. 2009 Aug;174(2):292-5. doi: 10.1086/600099.

Bacteriolytic activity in the ejaculate of an insect.

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Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, United Kingdom.


The rapid evolution of ejaculate components is considered to be largely driven by sexual selection. Less attention has been paid to the fact that sperm and microorganisms frequently meet; we consequently predict selection for substances that protect a male's ejaculate. We report, for the first time, bacteriolytic activity (lysozyme-like immune activity [LLA]) in the ejaculate of an animal, the common bedbug Cimex lectularius. We also show that in almost half the males LLA in the seminal fluid exceeded LLA in the hemolymph. We detected no antimicrobial peptide activity in seminal fluid. Because lysozymes degrade only bacteria, our results suggest that sperm-microbe interactions are probably important in the evolution of ejaculate components and thereby provide a route for natural selection to account for some of the diversity of seminal components.

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