Proteomics of reproductive systems: Towards a molecular understanding of postmating, prezygotic reproductive barriers

Caitlin E. McDonough, Emma Whittington, Scott Pitnick, Steve Dorus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Following mating and insemination, fertility is dependent on the successful execution of a complex array of morphological, physiological and molecular interactions between male and female proteins, cells and tissues. Many of these interacting components bear hallmarks of co-evolving systems and are suspected to contribute to postmating, prezygotic (PMPZ) reproductive barriers involved in the formation of new species. Although PMPZ reproductive isolation has historically been more difficult to study than precopulatory and postzygotic barriers, recent research has highlighted its potential role in speciation and revealed the impact of molecular investigation utilizing proteomic approaches. Proteomics, in conjunction with transcriptomic and evolutionary genomic studies, has been widely used to identify rapidly evolving male and female reproductive proteins. Increased access to high-throughput and quantitative proteomic techniques, as well as the ease of generating genomic and transcriptomic resources necessary for protein identification, can facilitate the extension of proteomics from traditional model species to systems of relevance to PMPZ phenotypes and hence greatly expand our understanding of how rapidly diverging molecular systems may contribute to PMPZ barriers. Here we review the influence proteomic analyses can have on our understanding of the function and evolution of the complex cellular and molecular processes governing postcopulatory male-female interactions and the study of PMPZ reproductive isolation, with the goal of expanding our understanding of the contribution of PMPZ processes to speciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-37
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Proteomics
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Fertility
  • Seminal fluid
  • Sexual selection
  • Speciation
  • Sperm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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