Far from being a passive medium for sperm delivery, seminal fluid contains proteins that exert major influences on mated females. This is best understood in insects, where seminal fluid proteins (""""""""Acps"""""""") stimulate ovulation and egg-laying, are required for a female to store sperm, and decrease her lifespan. Despite their importance, the molecular actions of seminal fluid proteins are unknown. We will use the tractable molecular genetics of Drosophila to determine how three major reproductive processes are controlled by Acps.
In aim 1, we address how ovulation is stimulated by Acp26Aa, a male-derived prohormone. Using an Acp26Aa null mutation, we'll identify signals that transduce the effect of Acp26Aa. We will also identify the receptor through which Acp26Aa acts, and whether Acp26Aa needs processing, and its region similar to mollusk egg-laying hormones, to act. Our results are significant to reproduction, hormone action, and the evolution of reproductive isolation mechanisms.
In aim 2, we investigate how seminal fluid proteins cause sperm storage. Again we'll work out from a single molecule, Acp36DE, that we showed genetically is central to this process. We will examine the behavior of GFP-labeled sperm in the absence of Acp36DE, testing whether Acp36DE acts within the sperm storage organs or to get sperm into storage. We will test whether Acp36DE's function requires its binding to sperm, and will identify molecules to which Acp36DE binds. Sperm storage is widespread among animals; our study will determine its molecular basis.
In aim 3, we address the role of protease inhibitors in seminal fluid. Seminal fluid of many animals contains protease inhibitors, but their reproductive function is unknown. Acp62F is a trypsin inhibitor in Drosophila seminal fluid. Intriguingly, Acp62F is toxic when introduced into insect circulatory systems. We propose a mutational analysis to determine Acp62F's function in the seminal fluid, such as controlling proteolysis of crucial reproductive proteins. We will test if entry of Acp62F into the female's circulatory system during mating shortens her life. We will identify molecules which bind Acp62F; these should include the proteases it inhibits. Our results will establish reproductive roles for controlled proteolysis, and will test evolutionary hypotheses for why toxic proteins exist in semen.
In aim 4, we'll continue screening a collection of EMS-induced mutations for ones in Acps. Analyzing these mutants, and ectopic expression of Acps, will identify new Acps that regulate ovulation, sperm storage or proteolysis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Reproductive Biology Study Section (REB)
Program Officer
De Paolo, Louis V
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Cornell University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Maeda, Robert K; Sitnik, Jessica L; Frei, Yohan et al. (2018) The lncRNA male-specific abdominal plays a critical role in Drosophila accessory gland development and male fertility. PLoS Genet 14:e1007519
Billeter, Jean-Christophe; Wolfner, Mariana F (2018) Chemical Cues that Guide Female Reproduction in Drosophila melanogaster. J Chem Ecol 44:750-769
Cohen, Allie B; Wolfner, Mariana F (2018) Dynamic changes in ejaculatory bulb size during Drosophila melanogaster aging and mating. J Insect Physiol 107:152-156
Ruhmann, Hanna; Koppik, Mareike; Wolfner, Mariana F et al. (2018) The impact of ageing on male reproductive success in Drosophila melanogaster. Exp Gerontol 103:1-10
Singh, Akanksha; Buehner, Norene A; Lin, He et al. (2018) Long-term interaction between Drosophila sperm and sex peptide is mediated by other seminal proteins that bind only transiently to sperm. Insect Biochem Mol Biol 102:43-51
Mattei, Alexandra L; Kamimura, Yoshitaka; Wolfner, Mariana F (2017) Intimate intimas: positioning of the copulatory organs in mating Drosophila. Mol Reprod Dev 84:1117
Sharma, Vandana; Pandey, Anuj K; Kumar, Ajay et al. (2017) Functional male accessory glands and fertility in Drosophila require novel ecdysone receptor. PLoS Genet 13:e1006788
Chapman, Tracey; Wolfner, Mariana F (2017) Reproductive behaviour: Make love, then war. Nat Ecol Evol 1:174
Avila, Frank W; Wolfner, Mariana F (2017) Cleavage of the Drosophila seminal protein Acp36DE in mated females enhances its sperm storage activity. J Insect Physiol 101:66-72
Gubala, Anna M; Schmitz, Jonathan F; Kearns, Michael J et al. (2017) The Goddard and Saturn Genes Are Essential for Drosophila Male Fertility and May Have Arisen De Novo. Mol Biol Evol 34:1066-1082

Showing the most recent 10 out of 78 publications