Proteomic diversification of spermatostyles among six species of whirligig beetles

R. Antonio Gomez, Romano Dallai, Dylan J. Sims-West, David Mercati, Rita Sinka, Yasir Ahmed-Braimah, Scott Pitnick, Steve Dorus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Seminal fluid protein composition is complex and commonly assumed to be rapidly divergent due to functional interactions with both sperm and the female reproductive tract (FRT), both of which evolve rapidly. In addition to sperm, seminal fluid may contain structures, such as mating plugs and spermatophores. Here, we investigate the evolutionary diversification of a lesser-known ejaculate structure: the spermatostyle, which has independently arisen in several families of beetles and true bugs. We characterized the spermatostyle proteome, in addition to spermatostyle and FRT morphology, in six species of whirligig beetles (family Gyrinidae). Spermatostyles were enriched for proteolytic enzymes, and assays confirmed they possess proteolytic activity. Sperm-leucylaminopeptidases (S-LAPs) were particularly abundant, and their localization to spermatostyles was confirmed by immunohistochemistry. Although there was evidence for functional conservation of spermatostyle proteomes across species, phylogenetic regressions suggest evolutionary covariation between protein composition and the morphology of both spermatostyles and FRTs. We postulate that S-LAPs (and other proteases) have evolved a novel structural role in spermatostyles and discuss spermatostyles as adaptations for delivering male-derived materials to females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23745
JournalMolecular Reproduction and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Coleoptera
  • evolution
  • fertility
  • protease
  • reproduction
  • sexual selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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