Post-ejaculation thermal stress causes changes to the RNA profile of sperm in an external fertilizer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Sperm cells experience considerable post-ejaculation environmental variation. However, little is known about whether this affects their molecular composition, probably owing to the assumption that sperm are transcriptionally quiescent. Nevertheless, recent evidence shows sperm have distinct RNA profiles that affect fertilization and embryo viability. Moreover, RNAs are expected to be highly sensitive to extracellular changes. One such group of RNAs are heat shock protein (hsp) transcripts, which function in stress responses and are enriched in sperm. Here, we exploit the experimental tractability of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis by exposing paired samples of ejaculated sperm to ambient (19°C) and increased (25°C) temperatures, then measure (i) sperm motility phenotypes, and (ii) messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of two target genes (hsp70 and hsp90) and several putative reference genes. We find no phenotypic changes in motility, but reduced mRNA levels for hsp90 and the putative reference gene gapdh at 25°C. This could reflect either decay of specific RNAs, or changes in translation and degradation rates of transcripts to maintain sperm function under stress. These findings represent, to our knowledge, the first evidence for changes in sperm RNA profiles owing to post-ejaculation environments, and suggest that sperm may be more vulnerable to stress from rising temperatures than currently thought.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
JournalProceedings. Biological sciences
Volume287
Issue number1938
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020

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