Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Helping the Opposition

A seminal fluid peptide from one male also benefits the fertility success of sperm from another

22 September 2020

Helping the Opposition

When competing for the affections of a charming potential partner, helping your rival might not seem very smart. But at a molecular level, just that might happen. Once things have moved from courtship to a rather closer companionship, sperm (blue) released by males swim towards a female egg cell with the help of a support crew of seminal proteins (green). These proteins boost the sperms’ chances, and prompt changes in the female that increase the number or quality of offspring. Some proteins also hold back any rival sperm that might be present, but the positive changes induced in the female are likely to be of benefit to all comers. A new study has investigated this mutual benefit in fruit flies, and found that one protein, the ‘sex peptide’, benefits both the sperm it was introduced with and any rivals. Perhaps this could be harnessed to help human fertility treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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