Physical and chemical interactions between individuals are a necessary part of normal reproduction, yet in many animals, differing reproductive goals of males and females sometimes leads to a genetic conflict between the sexes. This project uses the power of the well-studied nematode model system, Caenorhabditis elegans, which reproduces primarily via self-reproduction, and its close relative C. remanei, which has separate males and females, to examine the genetic basis of reproductive interactions. This project uses comprehensive genomic and proteomic approaches to identify the genetic bases of male reproductive traits and antagonistic effects in both C. elegans and C. remanei natural isolates, as well as in C. elegans populations that have been genetically manipulated to reproduce via outcrossing instead of self-reproduction.
Reproduction is a defining characteristic of living systems, and understanding the genetic and functional basis of reproductive interactions can provide key insights about the forces that maintain the tremendous diversity that we see in the world. Infertility affects more than six million Americans each year, with many of these cases being caused by mysterious incompatibilities between the perspective parents. Many basic biological functions are conserved across all animals, so identifying the genes and proteins involved in reproductive interactions in these species may yield insights into similar interactions in other organisms, including humans.