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University of East Anglia research shows how females choose the 'right' sperm
Date:8/16/2013

but little has been known about its function.

Prof Gage said: "We ran further sperm competition trials but this time we rinsed eggs of their ovarian fluid and then added back either their own fluid, or that from the other species. Remarkably, we found that the egg itself plays no significant role in promoting fertilization precedence by their own species' sperm. Instead, it is actually the ovarian fluid that controls which species' sperm wins the fertilizations, which was very unexpected. If we put salmon ovarian fluid onto salmon eggs, then salmon sperm win, but if we put trout ovarian fluid onto eggs from that same salmon female, trout sperm now win."

The researchers then used Video Tracking Analysis to analyse how salmon and trout sperm behave in ovarian fluid.

"We found that activating sperm in ovarian fluid makes them live about twice as long as in river water. Importantly, both species' sperm also switch from swimming in tight elliptical circles in river water, to swimming in straightened trajectories in ovarian fluid. This behaviour allows sperm to navigate towards the egg by following a chemical cue.

"So what we're seeing is that ovarian fluid gives a specific chemical signal to the sperm of its own species, causing changes in the way their tails beat, so that they swim in a straighter trajectory, and therefore guided more effectively towards the site of fertilization."

To establish that this was the mechanism which promoted fertilization precedence by their own species' sperm, the research team ran a final experiment in which they measured sperm migration across a membrane permeated with tiny pores mimicking the single entrance into the egg. They found that many more sperm swam through the membrane into their own ovarian fluid, compared with numbers crossing into the other species' ovarian fluid or water.

"These findings allow us to establish that females have indeed evolved mechanisms of 'cryptic choi
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Contact: Lisa Horton
l.horton@uea.ac.uk
44-016-035-92764
University of East Anglia
Source:Eurekalert

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