Rapid evolution of reproductive proteins in abalone and Drosophila

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Feb 28;361(1466):261-8. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2005.1793.


Observations from different taxa, including plants, protozoa, insects and mammals, indicate that proteins involved in reproduction evolve rapidly. Several models of adaptive evolution have been proposed to explain this phenomenon, such as sexual conflict, sexual selection, self versus non-self recognition and pathogen resistance. Here we discuss the potential role of sexual conflict in the rapid evolution of reproductive genes in two different animal systems, abalone (Haliotis) and Drosophila. In abalone, we reveal how specific interacting sperm-egg proteins were identified and discuss this identification in the light of models for rapid protein evolution and speciation. For Drosophila, we describe the genomic approaches taken to identify male accessory gland proteins and female reproductive tract proteins. Patterns of protein evolution from both abalone and Drosophila support the predicted patterns of rapid protein evolution driven by sexual conflict. We stress however that other selective pressures may contribute to the rapid evolution that is observed. We conclude that the key to distinguishing between sexual conflict and other mechanisms of protein evolution will be an integration of genetic, experimental and theoretical data.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Egg Proteins / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mollusca / genetics*
  • Mucoproteins / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Egg Proteins
  • Mucoproteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • VERL protein, Haliotis
  • lysin, gastropoda