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Seminal fluid-mediated fitness effects in the simultaneously hermaphroditic flatworm Macrostomum lignano

Citation

Weber, Michael; Giannakara, Athina; Ramm, Steven (2020), Seminal fluid-mediated fitness effects in the simultaneously hermaphroditic flatworm Macrostomum lignano, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8w9ghx3gv

Abstract

As a class, seminal fluid proteins are expected to exert strong effects on mating partners due to the selection pressures of sperm competition and sexual conflict. But because of the complexity of this secretion, linking specific proteins to downstream effects on own fitness – via manipulating the reproductive behavior, physiology and ultimately the sperm utilization of mating partners – is not straightforward. Here we adopted a systematic gene knockdown approach to screen for seminal fluid-mediated fitness effects in the simultaneously hermaphroditic flatworm Macrostomum lignano. We focused on 18 transcripts in M. lignano seminal fluid, testing how their RNA interference-induced knockdown impacted on three aspects of donor (male) reproductive success: (i) fertility (offspring production of the partner); (ii) defensive sperm competitive ability, P1; and (iii) offensive sperm competitive ability, P2. In general, the knockdown of most individual transcripts appeared to have only a minor impact on male reproductive success, though we found evidence that the knockdown of up to five different transcripts impacted on fertility; the knockdown of two other transcripts resulted in reduced P2, and knockdown of a further transcript actually increased P2. We thus identify a number of candidate seminal fluid transcripts that appear to modulate offspring production and sperm competitiveness in M. lignano. That only a minority of transcripts exhibit such a pattern likely reflects both the difficulty of accurately estimating sperm competitiveness and the functional redundancy of seminal fluid.