Drosophila males transfer antibacterial proteins from their accessory gland and ejaculatory duct to their mates

J Insect Physiol. 2001 Jun;47(6):617-622. doi: 10.1016/s0022-1910(00)00151-7.


The male fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, transfers to his mate proteins that increase his reproductive success by causing changes in her behavior and physiology. Here we show that among the transferred proteins are ones with antibacterial activity. We performed Escherichia coli overlay assays of native PAGE or renatured SDS-PAGE of reproductive tissue extracts of wild-type or transgenic males deficient in accessory gland function. We detected a 28 kDa male accessory gland-derived protein and two ejaculatory duct-derived proteins all with antibacterial activity. Based on its gel mobility and tissue of synthesis, one of the ejaculatory duct proteins is likely to be andropin, a previously-reported 6 kDa antibacterial peptide. All three proteins are transferred to females during mating. Therefore, they could assist in protecting the male's reproductive tract and, after transfer to the female, the female's reproductive tract or eggs against bacterial infection. Since seminal fluid proteins are transferred before the sperm, these antibacterial proteins may also protect sperm from bacterial infection.