Quantitative proteomics identification of seminal fluid proteins in male Drosophila melanogaster.
Sepil I., Hopkins BR., Dean R., Thézénas M-L., Charles PD., Konietzny R., Fischer R., Kessler B., Wigby S.
Seminal fluid contains some of the fastest evolving proteins currently known. These seminal fluid proteins (Sfps) play crucial roles in reproduction, such as supporting sperm function, and particularly in insects, modifying female physiology and behaviour. Identification of Sfps in small animals is challenging, and often relies on samples taken from the female reproductive tract after mating. A key pitfall of this method is that it might miss Sfps that are of low abundance due to dilution in the female-derived sample or rapid processing in females. Here we present a new and complementary method, which provides added sensitivity to Sfp identification. We applied label-free quantitative proteomics to Drosophila melanogaster male reproductive tissue - where Sfps are unprocessed, and highly abundant - and quantified Sfps before and immediately after mating, to infer those transferred during copulation. We also analysed female reproductive tracts immediately before and after copulation to confirm the presence and abundance of known and candidate Sfps, where possible. Results were cross-referenced with transcriptomic and sequence databases to improve confidence in Sfp detection. Our data were consistent with 125 previously reported Sfps. We found nine high-confidence novel candidate Sfps, which were both depleted in mated versus unmated males and identified within the reproductive tract of mated but not virgin females. We also identified 42 more candidates that are likely Sfps based on their abundance, known expression and predicted characteristics, and revealed that four proteins previously identified as Sfps are at best minor contributors to the ejaculate. The estimated copy numbers for our candidate Sfps were lower than for previously identified Sfps, supporting the idea that our technique provides a deeper analysis of the Sfp proteome than previous studies. Our results demonstrate a novel, high-sensitivity approach to the analysis of seminal fluid proteomes, whose application will further our understanding of reproductive biology.