Conserved properties of Drosophila and human spermatozoal mRNA repertoires

Bettina E. Fischer, Elizabeth Wasbrough, Lisa A. Meadows, Owen Randlet, Steve Dorus, Timothy L. Karr, Steven Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


It is now well established that mature mammalian spermatozoa carry a population of mRNA molecules, at least some of which are transferred to the oocyte at fertilization, however, their function remains largely unclear. To shed light on the evolutionary conservation of this feature of sperm biology, we analysed highly purified populations of mature sperm from the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster. As with mammalian sperm, we found a consistently enriched population of mRNA molecules that are unlikely to be derived from contaminating somatic cells or immature sperm. Using tagged transcripts for three of the spermatozoal mRNAs, we demonstrate that they are transferred to the oocyte at fertilization and can be detected before, and at least until, the onset of zygotic gene expression. We find a remarkable conservation in the functional annotations associated with fly and human spermatozoal mRNAs, in particular, a highly significant enrichment for transcripts encoding ribosomal proteins (RPs). The substantial functional coherence of spermatozoal transcripts in humans and the fly opens the possibility of using the power of Drosophila genetics to address the function of this enigmatic class of molecules in sperm and in the oocyte following fertilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2636-2644
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1738
StatePublished - Jul 7 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Drosophila
  • Sperm
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Spermatozoa
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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