Reduced polymorphism in the chimpanzee semen coagulating protein, semenogelin I

J Mol Evol. 2003 Aug;57(2):159-69. doi: 10.1007/s00239-002-2463-0.


The semen of many primate species coagulates into a mating plug believed to prevent the sperm of subsequent mating events from accessing the ova. The texture of the coagulum varies among species: from a semisoft mass in humans to a firm plug in chimpanzees. In humans, a component of the coagulum, semenogelin I, also inhibits sperm motility. We tested the hypothesis that polymorphism and divergence at semenogelin I differ among hominoid species with different mating systems. Sequence data for the semenogelin I locus were obtained from 12 humans, 10 chimpanzees, 7 gorillas, and 1 bonobo. Mitochondrial D-loop data were collected from a subset of individuals to assess levels of variation at an unlinked locus. HKA tests using D-loop sequence data revealed a significant reduction of polymorphism at semenogelin I in chimpanzees, consistent with predictions of a selective sweep at this locus. This result was supported by independent HKA tests using polymorphism data from a putatively neutral locus from the literature. Humans show a similar trend toward reduced polymorphism, although HKA tests were only marginally significant. Gorilla sequence data show evidence of functional loss at the semenogelin I locus, indicated by stop codons within the putative open reading frame as well as high levels of polymorphism. Elevated Ka/Ks ratios within the Pan-Homo clade suggest a history of positive selection at semenogelin I. Our results suggest that there is a positive relationship between the intensity of sperm competition in a species and the strength of positive Darwinian selection on the seminal protein semenogelin I.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gorilla gorilla / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pan paniscus / genetics
  • Pan troglodytes / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Semen / physiology*
  • Seminal Vesicle Secretory Proteins / genetics*
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Seminal Vesicle Secretory Proteins
  • seminal vesicle-specific antigen