When Females Produce Sperm: Genetics of C. elegans Hermaphrodite Reproductive Choice
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CitationBahrami, Adam K., and Yun Zhang. 2013. “When Females Produce Sperm: Genetics of C. elegans Hermaphrodite Reproductive Choice.” G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics 3 (10): 1851-1859. doi:10.1534/g3.113.007914. http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/g3.113.007914.
AbstractReproductive behaviors have manifold consequences on evolutionary processes. Here, we explore mechanisms underlying female reproductive choice in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a species in which females have evolved the ability to produce their own self-fertilizing sperm, thereby allowing these "hermaphrodites" the strategic choice to self-reproduce or outcross with males. We report that hermaphrodites of the wild-type laboratory reference strain N2 favor self-reproduction, whereas a wild isolate CB4856 (HW) favors outcrossing. To characterize underlying neural mechanisms, we show that N2 hermaphrodites deficient in mechanosensation or chemosensation (e.g., mec-3 and osm-6 mutants) exhibit high mating frequency, implicating hermaphrodite perception of males as a requirement for low mating frequency. Within chemosensory networks, we find opposing roles for different sets of neurons that express the cyclic GMP-gated nucleotide channel, suggesting both positive and negative sensory-mediated regulation of hermaphrodite mating frequency. We also show that the ability to self-reproduce negatively regulates hermaphrodite mating. To map genetic variation, we created recombinant inbred lines and identified two QTL that explain a large portion of N2 × HW variation in hermaphrodite mating frequency. Intriguingly, we further show that ∼40 wild isolates representing C. elegans global diversity exhibit extensive and continuous variation in hermaphrodite reproductive outcome. Together, our findings demonstrate that C. elegans hermaphrodites actively regulate the choice between selfing and crossing, highlight the existence of natural variation in hermaphrodite choice, and lay the groundwork for molecular dissection of this evolutionarily important trait.
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