Sexual selection, genetic conflict, selfish genes, and the atypical patterns of gene expression in spermatogenic cells

Dev Biol. 2005 Jan 1;277(1):16-26. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2004.09.031.


This review proposes that the peculiar patterns of gene expression in spermatogenic cells are the consequence of powerful evolutionary forces known as sexual selection. Sexual selection is generally characterized by intense competition of males for females, an enormous variety of the strategies to maximize male reproductive success, exaggerated male traits at all levels of biological organization, co-evolution of sexual traits in males and females, and conflict between the sexual advantage of the male trait and the reproductive fitness of females and the individual fitness of both sexes. In addition, spermatogenesis is afflicted by selfish genes that promote their transmission to progeny while causing deleterious effects. Sexual selection, selfish genes, and genetic conflict provide compelling explanations for many atypical features of gene expression in spermatogenic cells including the gross overexpression of certain mRNAs, transcripts encoding truncated proteins that cannot carry out basic functions of the proteins encoded by the same genes in somatic cells, the large number of gene families containing paralogous genes encoding spermatogenic cell-specific isoforms, the large number of testis-cancer-associated genes that are expressed only in spermatogenic cells and malignant cells, and the overbearing role of Sertoli cells in regulating the number and quality of spermatozoa.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Division
  • Copulation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sex Chromosomes
  • Spermatogenesis*
  • TATA-Box Binding Protein / genetics


  • RNA, Messenger
  • TATA-Box Binding Protein