The gifts that keep on giving: physiological functions and evolutionary dynamics of male seminal proteins in Drosophila

Heredity (Edinb). 2002 Feb;88(2):85-93. doi: 10.1038/sj.hdy.6800017.


During mating, males transfer seminal proteins and peptides, along with sperm, to their mates. In Drosophila melanogaster, seminal proteins made in the male's accessory gland stimulate females' egg production and ovulation, reduce their receptivity to mating, mediate sperm storage, cause part of the survival cost of mating to females, and may protect reproductive tracts or gametes from microbial attack. The physiological functions of these proteins indicate that males provide their mates with molecules that initiate important reproductive responses in females. A new comprehensive EST screen, in conjunction with earlier screens, has identified approximately 90% of the predicted secreted accessory gland proteins (Acps). Most Acps are novel proteins and many appear to be secreted peptides or prohormones. Acps also include modification enzymes such as proteases and their inhibitors, and lipases. An apparent prohormonal Acp, ovulin (Acp26Aa) stimulates ovulation in mated Drosophila females. Another male-derived protein, the large glycoprotein Acp36DE, is needed for sperm storage in the mated female and through this action can also affect sperm precedence, indirectly. A third seminal protein, the protease inhibitor Acp62F, is a candidate for contributing to the survival cost of mating, given its toxicity in ectopic expression assays. That male-derived molecules manipulate females in these ways can result in a molecular conflict between the sexes that can drive the rapid evolution of Acps. Supporting this hypothesis, an unusually high fraction of Acps show signs consistent with their being targets of positive Darwinian selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Expressed Sequence Tags
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Longevity / physiology
  • Male
  • Ovary / physiology
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / physiology*
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Semen / physiology*


  • Acp26Aa protein, Drosophila
  • Acp36DE protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • SP protein, Drosophila
  • male accessory gland peptide, Drosophila