It is now well established that mature mammalian spermatozoa carry a population of mRNA molecules, at least some of which are transferred to the oocyte at fertilization, however, their function remains largely unclear. To shed light on the evolutionary conservation of this feature of sperm biology, we analysed highly purified populations of mature sperm from the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster. As with mammalian sperm, we found a consistently enriched population of mRNA molecules that are unlikely to be derived from contaminating somatic cells or immature sperm. Using tagged transcripts for three of the spermatozoal mRNAs, we demonstrate that they are transferred to the oocyte at fertilization and can be detected before, and at least until, the onset of zygotic gene expression. We find a remarkable conservation in the functional annotations associated with fly and human spermatozoal mRNAs, in particular, a highly significant enrichment for transcripts encoding ribosomal proteins (RPs). The substantial functional coherence of spermatozoal transcripts in humans and the fly opens the possibility of using the power of Drosophila genetics to address the function of this enigmatic class of molecules in sperm and in the oocyte following fertilization.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Early online date||29 Feb 2012|
|Publication status||Published - 7 Jul 2012|