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Mol Ecol. 2017 Dec;26(23):6704-6716. doi: 10.1111/mec.14384. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

Gene expression changes in male accessory glands during ageing are accompanied by reproductive decline in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Institute of Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany.


Senescence is accompanied by loss of reproductive functions. Here, we studied reproductive ageing in Drosophila melanogaster males and asked whether the expected decline in male reproductive success is due to diminished functionality of the male accessory gland (AG). The male AG produces the majority of seminal fluid proteins (SFPs) transferred to the female at mating. SFPs induce female postmating changes and are key to male reproductive success. We measured age-dependent gene expression changes for five representative SFP genes in males from four different age groups ranging from 1 to 6 weeks after eclosion. Simultaneously, we also measured male reproductive success in postmating traits mediated by transfer of these five SFPs. We found a decreased in male SFP gene expression with advancing age and an accompanying decline in male postmating success. Hence, male reproductive senescence is associated with a decline in functionality of the male AG. While overall individual SFP genes decreased in expression, our results point towards the idea that the composition of an ejaculate might change with male age as the rate of change was variable for those five genes.


accessory gland proteins; mating behaviour; senescence; sexual conflict; sexual selection; sperm competition

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