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Cleavage of the Drosophila seminal protein Acp36DE in mated females enhances its sperm storage activity

Avila, Frank W., Wolfner, Mariana F.
Journal of insect physiology 2017 v.101 pp. 66-72
Drosophila melanogaster, chemical elements, females, insect physiology, mass spectrometry, mutation, oviducts, proteins, spermatozoa, storage organs, uterus
Sperm storage in the mated female reproductive tract (RT) is required for optimal fertility in numerous species with internal fertilization. In Drosophila melanogaster, sperm storage is dependent on female receipt of seminal fluid proteins (SFPs) during mating. The seminal fluid protein Acp36DE is necessary for the accumulation of sperm into storage. In the female RT, Acp36DE localizes to the anterior mating plug and also to a site in the common oviduct, potentially “corralling” sperm near the entry sites into the storage organs. Genetic studies showed that Acp36DE is also required for a series of conformational changes of the uterus that begin at the onset of mating and are hypothesized to move sperm towards the entry sites of the sperm storage organs. After Acp36DE is transferred to the female RT, the protein is cleaved by the astacin-metalloprotease Semp1. However, the effect of this cleavage on Acp36DE’s function in sperm accumulation into storage is unknown. We used mass spectrometry to identify the single cleavage site in Acp36DE. We then mutated this site and tested the effects on sperm storage. Mutations of Acp36DE’s cleavage site that slowed or prevented cleavage of the protein slowed the accumulation of sperm into storage, although they did not affect uterine conformational changes in mated females. Moreover, the N-terminal cleavage product of Acp36DE was sufficient to mediate sperm accumulation in storage, and it did so faster than versions of Acp36DE that could not be cleaved or were only cleaved slowly. These results suggest that cleavage of Acp36E may increase the number of bioactive molecules within the female RT, a mechanism similar to that hypothesized for Semp1’s other substrate, the seminal fluid protein ovulin.