The life history of Drosophila sperm involves molecular continuity between male and female reproductive tracts

Erin L. McCullough, Emma Whittington, Akanksha Singh, Scott Pitnick, Mariana F. Wolfner, Steve Dorus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Interactions between sperm and the female reproductive tract (FRT) are critical to reproductive success and yet are poorly understood. Because sperm complete their functional maturation within the FRT, the life history of sperm is likely to include a molecular “hand-off” from males to females. Although such intersexual molecular continuity is likely to be widespread among all internally fertilizing species, the identity and extent of female contributions are largely unknown. We combined semiquantitative proteomics with sex-specific isotopic labeling to catalog the posttesticular life history of the sperm proteome and determine the extent of molecular continuity between male and FRTs. We show that the Drosophila melanogaster sperm proteome undergoes substantial compositional changes after being transferred to the FRT. Multiple seminal fluid proteins initially associate with sperm, but most become undetectable after sperm are stored. Female-derived proteins also begin to associate with sperm immediately after mating, and they comprise nearly 20% of the postmating sperm proteome following 4 d of storage in the FRT. Female-derived proteins that associate with sperm are enriched for processes associated with energy metabolism, suggesting that female contributions support sperm viability during the prolonged period between copulation and fertilization. Our research provides a comprehensive characterization of sperm proteome dynamics and expands our understanding of the critical process of sperm-FRT interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2119899119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022


  • female reproductive tract
  • fertility
  • proteome
  • seminal proteins
  • sperm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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