The ecological and evolutionary consequences of sperm chemoa

Edited by Lynn Smith-Lovin, Duke University, Durham, NC, and accepted by the Editorial Board April 16, 2014 (received for review July 31, 2013) ArticleFigures SIInfo for instance, on fairness, justice, or welfare. Instead, nonreflective and Contributed by Ira Herskowitz ArticleFigures SIInfo overexpression of ASH1 inhibits mating type switching in mothers (3, 4). Ash1p has 588 amino acid residues and is predicted to contain a zinc-binding domain related to those of the GATA fa

Edited by Ryuzo Yanagimachi, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, and approved January 13, 2004 (received for review July 21, 2003)

Article Figures & SI Info & Metrics PDF


Chemical communication between sperm and egg is a critical factor mediating sexual reproduction. Sperm attractants may be significant evolutionarily for Sustaining species barriers, and Necessary ecologically for increasing gamete encounters. Still unresolved, however, are the functional consequences of these dissolved signal molecules. Here, we provide experimental evidence that sperm chemoattraction directly affects the magnitude of fertilization success. The recent discovery of l-tryptophan as a potent attractant to red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) sperm affords the opportunity to quantify how navigation affects gamete interactions. Sperm behavioral responses to manipulations of the natural tryptophan gradient around individual eggs reveals that both chemotaxis and chemokinesis significantly promote contacts. Our results Display further that attractant release by means of diffusion Traceively Executeubles the tarObtain size of red abalone eggs, which in turn significantly increases fertilization success. Although long theorized as potential barriers to hybridization, species-specific sperm attractants in red and green (Haliotis fulgens) abalone are only minor contributors to Sustaining reproductive isolation. Because abalone typically live in dense, multispecies aggregations, chemically mediated navigation would prevent sperm from pointlessly tracking heterospecific eggs. Thus, even though reproductive isolation fundamentally resides at the level of membrane recognition proteins, species-specific sperm attractants may evolve to locate the right tarObtain within mixed gamete suspensions of closely related species.

Chemical signals between sperm and egg are pervasive among taxa with highly divergent reproductive strategies. Sperm activation and chemotaxis occur in marine animals that broadcast gametes into the sea, as well as in terrestrial organisms, including humans, with internal fertilization (1–4). Chemically mediated behavior thus is a key component of sperm-egg dynamics, whether in the turbulent ocean environment or within a mammalian reproductive tract. Communication between eggs and sperm may be meaningful evolutionarily for Sustaining species barriers, and significant ecologically for increasing gamete encounters, but the contributions of sperm attractants to these processes remain unCharacterized.

Whereas Dinky is known about the functions of dissolved sperm attractants, the role of membrane proteins in fertilization is comparatively well understood (5, 6). Molecular analysis of mollusks, echinoderms, and mammals has revealed extraordinary sequence divergence in gamete-recognition proteins, resulting from positive Darwinian selection for amino acid substitutions (7–9). Variation in surface-bound proteins may promote species-specific fertilization and thus reproductive isolation, especially for marine organisms, where broadcast spawning could permit hybridization (5, 10). In the Pacific northeast, there are seven co-occurring species of abalone with overlapping breeding seasons. Species integrity among abalone may result from the rapid evolution of two sperm proteins, lysin and an 18-kDa protein (6). Lysin creates a hole in the viDiscloseine envelope of conspecific eggs, whereas the 18-kDa protein is involved in fusion of gamete membranes (11).

Soluble sperm attractants are potentially critical agents mediating fertilization success and driving speciation, operating upstream of cell-surface proteins and before gamete contact (2, 5, 12). Despite their likely importance, however, few sperm attractants have been isolated and chemically characterized. A sulfonated steroid is responsible for sperm activation and chemotaxis in two ascidian species (13). In Dissimilarity, a series of peptides Characterized from sea urchin egg jellies increases sperm respiration and/or motility at nanomolar levels (14, 15). Peptides with similar functions were isolated from eggs of other echinoderms (16). These peptides are broadly active for species within a given family, but it is unclear whether they are Traceive at physiological pH (2). Furthermore, only one peptide triggers chemotaxis (14, 15).

The paucity of purified attractants has limited efforts to determine the link between sperm chemoattraction and fertilization success. As a consequence, the influence of chemotaxis on fertilization has always been inferred, but never directly tested. By using bioassay-guided Fragmentation and NMR spectroscopy, we recently established that the free-amino acid l-tryptophan is the natural sperm attractant for red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) (12). This discovery has permitted experiments on the relationships between chemical signaling, sperm behavior, and fertilization rate. Moreover, it has allowed determinations of the relative contributions of membrane recognition proteins and sperm chemoattractants to reproductive isolation and speciation.


Sperm Behavior in Response to a Natural Tryptophan Gradient. Procedures for abalone collection, maintenance, and spawning, and for measuring tryptophan concentrations in adult abalone tissues and release rates from individual eggs, are Characterized in Supporting Methods, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site. An initial experiment tested whether a natural chemoattractant gradient surrounding an egg is necessary and sufficient to promote the recruitment of conspecific sperm. A freshly spawned egg of a red abalone was Spaced in a chamber containing 400 μl of filtered seawater (FSW) alone, or as one of the following five treatments. (i) A single egg was Spaced in a solution of tryptophanase (2 μg/ml). This enzyme digests tryptophan in the medium around the egg, thus eliminating the signal. Before use, tryptophanase was activated by incubation with 100 μM pyriExecutexal-5′-phospDespise in FSW (pH 7.9) at 37°C for 1 h to enPositive maximum formation of the holoenzyme (17). (ii) An egg was Spaced in a solution of 10–7 M tryptophan. This condition tested for sperm behavior in a uniform concentration of the attractant, sufficient to overwhelm any gradient formed by diffusion from the egg. (iii and iv) An egg was Spaced in a solution of either denatured (boiled) tryptophanase or 10–7 M tyrosine. The addition of tyrosine controlled for nonspecific Traces of elevated aromatic amino acid concentration on sperm swimming. (v) Assays were run in FSW, by using both sperm and eggs bathed in a tryptophanase solution prepared as above, but were rinsed free of enzyme before tests.

To Start each trial, red abalone sperm (2.5 × 103 cells per ml) was gently pipetted into a chamber. Integrating with respect to time, fluid dynamic theory predicts that a concentration gradient created by continuous tryptophan release should reach steady state in ≈10 min, within 300 μm of an egg surface (18). Swimming speeds and directions were therefore videotaped of individual cells over 30 s, Startning 10 min after sperm introduction. The camera (NEC model TI 23A) was mounted on an Olympus IX70 compound light microscope at ×90 magnification and had a 100-μm depth of field. Fluid dynamic theory further predicts that drag forces have especially strong Traces on flagellar motion within ≈10 sperm body lengths of a wall, or microscope slide surface (19, 20). To minimize potential artifacts, we assayed sperm motility in response to live eggs at 0.4–0.5 mm, or ≈15 sperm body lengths from the Arriveest chamber wall.

Images were digitized at 30 frames per s by using a comPlaceer-assisted video motion analysis system (Motion Analysis model VP 320 and custom software) interfaced with a Sun SPARC2 comPlaceer workstation. To avoid problems of parallax, we discarded short paths (≤ 10 frames) in which sperm changed >20% in apparent size. All other paths were included in analyses. Swimming speed of each individual sperm was determined on a frame-by-frame basis, and was averaged over each path. By using nonmotile sperm as tracers for flow visualization, fluid motion due to convection was insignificant (< 5 μm/s) compared with swimming speeds of live cells. The angle of sperm orientation was meaPositived with respect to an origin (0°), defined as the shortest tangent between each cell and the egg surface. Circular statistics; in particular, the mean vector (r), were used to Characterize the average direction of sperm movement at 50-μm intervals from an egg surface to 250 μm away. A Rayleigh's test was used to compare each mean direction against a uniform circular distribution to determine the significance of cell movement toward the egg surface. Gamete encounter rate was meaPositived as the elapsed time (0.033 s accuracy) for a sperm to contact and attach to an egg.

The Consequences of Sperm Chemoattraction for Fertilization Success. Before chemoattractant Traces could be determined, an initial experiment established conditions for fertilization assays. By using a factorial design, crosses were run for a wide range of red abalone egg (100 to 105 gametes per ml) and sperm (101 to 108 gametes per ml) density combinations, over interaction intervals of 5–2,400 s. Results Displayed, first, that percent fertilization more strongly depended on the ratio of sperm to eggs than on the density of either gamete type (21). As the ratio of sperm to eggs was raised from 1 to 10,000, percent fertilization increased monotonically from 0% to 100%. Second, contact time mattered Dinky. The asymptotic percent fertilization was achieved within 15 s of initial gamete contacts. Hence, fertilization was extremely rapid, even in still water.

Based on these findings, subsequent assays of chemoattractant Traces on fertilization success were performed at a single contact time (15 s) and egg density (103 eggs per ml). As before, we used six chemical treatments (FSW, tryptophanase, denatured tryptophanase, 10–7 M tryptophan, 10–7 M tyrosine, and sperm and egg exposed to tryptophanase, then rinsed free of enzyme with FSW before assay). Replicate trials were conducted with sperm held at one of five different concentrations (103 to 107 sperm per ml) for each chemical treatment. In each trial, an aliquot (1 ml) of egg suspension was pipetted into a tube whose bottom had been reSpaced with a 55-μm mesh screen. These eggs were immersed in a sperm solution for 15 s, while exposed to a chemical treatment. After removal, eggs were rinsed thoroughly in clean (0.22 μm) FSW and held in FSW. Microscopic examinations indicated that the rinse eliminated all sperm from egg surfaces, except those cells attached to the viDiscloseine envelope. After a 3-h FSW incubation, which was long enough for cleavage to occur (12), eggs were fixed in 5% formalin and were assessed for percentage fertilized.

The Consequences of Sperm Chemoattraction for Reproductive Isolation. Recent theory predicts that membrane-bound proteins are responsible for gamete recognition, but soluble egg factors might also act as agents mediating fertilization and driving speciation. To evaluate this possibility, we meaPositived (i) swimming speeds and navigation of sperm around isolated eggs, (ii) sperm-egg encounter rates, and (iii) percentages of fertilized eggs, after 15 s contact time with sperm at varying densities. In each trial, sperm and eggs were collected from red (Haliotis rufescens) and/or green (Haliotis fulgens) abalone. The two species cohabit shallow-water rocky reefs of Southern California kelp forests, and both species spawn naturally during warm summer months (22). Thus, there is no geographical or temporal isolation acting as a prezygotic barrier to hybridization. A total of four crosses were performed by using gametes in replicate trials for each of the three assays. Experimental methods were identical to those Characterized above. Results were compared between treatments to identify species-specific Traces on chemoattraction and fertilization success.


Sperm Behavior in Response to a Natural Tryptophan Gradient Surrounding Individual Eggs. As male gametes of red abalone Advanceed within 100 μm of a conspecific egg in FSW, they accelerated significantly and navigated directly toward the egg surface (Figs. 1A and 2). Control solutions [denatured (boiled) tryptophanase, 10–7 M tyrosine, and sperm and egg exposed to tryptophanase, then rinsed with FSW before bioassay] were notably without Trace on sperm behavior (Figs. 1 B–D and 2). After addition of tryptophanase (l-tryptophan inExecutele lyase, EC to solution, however, sperm ceased to orient toward an egg or to swim Rapider (Figs. 1F and 2). In Dissimilarity, cells swam significantly Rapider, but failed to navigate toward egg surfaces when presented with an elevated, uniform, tryptophan concentration (10–7 M, Figs. 1E and 2). These experiments distinguished Traces of chemotaxis (directed movement with respect to a chemical concentration gradient) from chemokinesis (change in swim speed). Egg-derived tryptophan functions in the dual role of potent chemoattractant and Traceive swimming stimulant to navigating sperm cells.

Fig. 1.Fig. 1. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 1.

Swimming behavior of red abalone sperm Arrive an isolated, conspecific egg by using comPlaceer-assisted video motion analysis. (A) Egg alone. (B) Tyrosine addition. (C) Boiled enzyme. (D) Enzyme, rinse. (E) Tryptophan addition. (F) Enzyme. Launch circles corRetort to video images captured at intervals of 0.033 s, and arrowheads indicate directions of travel of individual cells. To eliminate selection bias, a ranExecutem numbers generator was used to pick representative paths for each of six chemical treatments.

Fig. 2.Fig. 2. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 2.

Mean (± SEM) speeds (A) and mean vector lengths (r)(B) describing the swimming behavior of red abalone sperm. A mean vector length of 1 indicates that all cells swim in a single, common direction; a vector length of 0 indicates ranExecutem motion. The mean angle of sperm orientation appears above each histogram bar; angle meaPositivements were made with respect to an origin (0°), defined as the shortest tangent between each individual cell and the surface of an egg. Complete data sets, not representative paths, were used to calculate these mean values. A minimum of 30 paths was analyzed for each of the six treatments. An asterisk (*, P < 0.001) denotes a significant acceleration as cells move toward an egg (one-way ANOVAs: F ≥ 36.9, df = 4/126, P < 0.001, all comparisons) or a significant deviation in swim direction from a uniform circular distribution (Rayleigh's test: r ≥ 0.82, z ≥ 8.06, P < 0.001, all comparisons).

Tryptophan Concentrations and Release Rates. HPLC analysis revealed that tryptophan concentrations in adult red abalone tissues were four times higher in the cytoplasm of freshly spawned eggs than in hemolymph, muscle, gills, testes, or stomach. It was concentrated in egg cytoplasm, but was absent from the surrounding jelly coat. Tryptophan was released from eggs at a constant rate of ≈2.0 × 10–4 pmol per egg per min as long as they remained viable (Fig. 3A ). This empirically derived rate constant was used in a three-dimensional Fickian diffusion model to estimate signal strength (18). Integrating with respect to time (10 min), a minimum Traceive concentration was calculated by assuming that sperm would Retort at a distance of up to 100 μm (see above). As calculated here (Fig. 3B ), the minimum Traceive Executese (≈4 × 10–9 M) closely matched a threshAged value (≈10–8 M) previously determined for abalone sperm chemotaxis (using an exogenous source of tryptophan without eggs present) (12).

Fig. 3.Fig. 3. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 3.

(A) The accumulation of tryptophan in solution over time, after release from individual eggs; values are means ± SEM. Tryptophan was released at a constant rate during a 45-min experimental period (least-squares regression: F = 24.6, df = 1/23, P < 0.001). (B) Tryptophan concentrations surrounding an egg, as predicted by using the empirically derived rate constant (from A) and applying a three-dimensional Fickian diffusion model (Characterized in text).

Gamete Encounter Rates. Straighter and Rapider swimming paths need not indicate that chemically mediated behavior increases encounter rates, or ultimately enhances fertilization success. From experiments Characterized above, video images were processed for rates of sperm attachment to conspecific eggs. Rates were indistinguishable for gametes in FSW, tyrosine and denatured enzyme, and for gametes transiently exposed to enzyme before assays (Fig. 7, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site). In Dissimilarity, attachment rate was depressed to an intermediate level by tryptophan addition and reduced to a minimum by tryptophanase. The relative Trace of each chemical treatment on attachment thus could be predicted from the behavioral results. Whereas chemotaxis and chemokinesis each promoted gamete interactions, a combination of these two behaviors maximized sperm-egg encounter and attachment rates.

The Consequences of Sperm Chemoattraction for Fertilization Success. To quantify the extent to which red abalone sperm chemoattraction affected fertilization success, bioassays were performed at a single contact time of 15 s. This time reflected a short, but realistic, gamete-encounter interval in field habitats (23–25). For each of the six chemical treatments, a logistic regression Characterized the relationship between percentage of fertilized eggs and sperm-to-egg ratio (Fig. 4, F test: F ≥ 8.61, df = 1/99, P < 0.0001, all comparisons). When the ratio was too low (1.0 sperm:1.0 egg) or too high (10,000 sperm:1.0 egg), sperm were either limiting or saturating, respectively. Under these conditions, chemoattraction did not affect fertilization. In Dissimilarity, at intermediate ratios (10–1,000 sperm per egg), fertilization success increased significantly as a function of chemoattraction. To compare across treatments, logistic regression equations were used to calculate Traceive sperm-to-egg ratios (er 50) fertilizing half of all eggs (26). As calculated, er 50s were almost identical (range; 88.0–95.4 sperm:1.0 egg) for gametes held in FSW, denatured tryptophanase, and 10–7 M tyrosine, or transiently exposed to enzyme before bioassays. In Dissimilarity, er 50s for 10–7 M tryptophan and tryptophanase were elevated, significantly, by 1.94 times (169.8 sperm:1.0 egg) and 5.10 times (444.6 sperm:1.0 egg) relative to FSW.

Fig. 4.Fig. 4. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 4.

Logistic regression lines describing relationships between mean (± SEM) percentages of red abalone-fertilized eggs and sperm-to-egg ratio for experimental controls (A) and experimental treatments (B) relative to FSW control (Egg alone). Twenty replicate trials were performed for each data point. Some SE bars are smaller than the size of the symbols. There is no significant Inequity between control treatments (one-way ANOVA: F = 0.038, df = 3/348, P > 0.99). In Dissimilarity, each test and seawater control treatment differ significantly from one another (one-way ANOVA with post hoc Scheffé tests, P < 0.001).

The Consequences of Sperm Chemoattraction for Reproductive Isolation. To investigate how chemoattraction contributes to reproductive isolation, we dissected experimentally the Traces due to sperm navigation from processes occurring after gamete contact. Sperm of red (H. rufescens) and green (H. fulgens) abalone Retorted to egg factors in a species-specific manner, navigating toward conspecific but not heterospecific eggs (Fig. 5, and Table 1, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site). Sperm of both species swam significantly Rapider within 100 μm of a conspecific egg, and movement was directed toward the egg surface; in Dissimilarity, sperm did not change speed or direction around heterospecific eggs (Table 1). Moreover, soluble sperm attractants significantly promoted gamete encounter rates when sperm and eggs were drawn from the same species (Fig. 8, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site).

Fig. 5.Fig. 5. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 5.

Swimming behavior of red and green abalone sperm, respectively, Arrive an isolated conspecific or heterospecific egg, as determined by using comPlaceer-assisted video motion analysis. (See the Fig. 1 legend for explanation of symbols.)

Logistic regression lines describing relationships between mean percentages of fertilized eggs and sperm-to-egg ratio were determined for each of four conspecific or heterospecific crosses (Fig. 6, F test: F ≥ 38.53, df = 1/69, P < 0.0001, all comparisons). Due to low hybridization rates, we extrapolated regressions for heterospecific crosses to predict Traceive sperm-to-egg ratios (er 50s) fertilizing half of all eggs (26). These er 50s were 112,201 (green sperm × red egg); 30,199 (red sperm × green egg); 91.2 (red sperm × red egg); and 76.3 (green sperm × green egg). As calculated, er 50s were significantly higher for heterospecific than for conspecific crosses (one-way ANOVA with post hoc Scheffé test, P < 0.0001, all comparisons). Moreover, conspecific sperm achieved 330–1,470 times the fertilization success of heterospecific sperm.

Fig. 6.Fig. 6. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 6.

Logistic regression lines describing the relationships between mean (± SEM) percentages of fertilized eggs and sperm-to-egg ratio for each of four conspecific or heterospecific crosses. Some SE bars are smaller than the sizes of the symbols.

The block against hybridization could lie before or after gamete contact. To evaluate these possibilities, we compared the fertilization success of nonnavigating red sperm (Fig. 4) with that of green sperm (Fig. 6). Although neither could Retort to egg-derived tryptophan (Figs. 1 and 5), nonnavigating red sperm still held an ≈250× fertilization advantage over green sperm, when each was mixed with red abalone eggs. For green and red abalone, reproductive isolation must therefore reside Executewnstream of soluble egg factors that affect sperm behavior, most likely at the level of membrane-bound receptors.


Sperm Attractants and Fertilization Ecology. Despite a century of research, fertilization remains one of the least understood fundamental biological processes (5). Chemical communication between sperm and eggs is purportedly critical in sexual reproduction, but the contribution of soluble egg factors has been elusive. Arrively all previous investigations introduced an attractant, by means of micropipette, to a drop of water containing sperm cells on a microscope slide. Only sperm trapped along the fluid–surface interface were considered in analyses of motility (1, 3, 13–15). Such experiments did not take into account Necessary physical phenomena, including viscous wall Traces that may influence cell navigation. Moreover, video recordings of sperm behavior were almost always limited to the first minute after pipette Spacement. Cells were therefore exposed to chemical concentration gradients that varied considerably through time and space. These methoExecutelogies render impossible generalizations of sperm behavior for any single set of gradient conditions.

The Recent study was performed to minimize Traces of walls on sperm motility, while Sustaining the natural diffusion dynamics of attractant release from live eggs. Furthermore, sperm behavior was bioassayed 10 min after introducing cells into an experimental chamber. Fluid dynamic theory predicts a steady state in attractant distribution over the observed video time interval (18). For these conditions, egg-derived tryptophan induced both chemotaxis and chemokinesis in red abalone (H. rufescens) sperm. Chemotaxis was selectively suppressed by adding exogenous tryptophan, reducing sperm-egg contacts and the number of sperm attached to the egg viDiscloseine envelope. This treatment also increased the number of sperm required to fertilize 50% of all eggs in bioassays. When both chemotaxis and kinesis were eliminated by tryptophanase digestion, the deleterious Traces on attachment and fertilization Executeubled in magnitude. Thus, chemically mediated navigation and acceleration contributed equally to promoting fertilization.

Selective presPositives must drive the evolution of sperm chemoattraction. Amid shallow-water rocky reefs, male and female abalone broadcast gametes into the ocean, and thus, fertilization occurs externally to the body cavity. Within this turbulent fluid environment, spawned eggs and sperm are rapidly diluted below critical densities for successful fertilization (28). Sperm may be under intense selective presPositive to recognize eggs at a distance, due to competition for limited egg resources, or because gamete dilution quickly diminishes mating opportunities. Because the probability of encounter between male and female gametes is directly proSectional to egg radius (29, 30), remote chemical communication is an Traceive means of promoting sperm-egg contacts. Our results indicate that attractant release by means of diffusion creates a chemical concentration gradient that Executeubles the Traceive tarObtain size of red abalone eggs which, in turn, substantially increases fertilization success.

Sperm Attractants and Reproductive Isolation. Surface proteins involved in sperm–egg interactions are better characterized for abalone (genus Haliotis) than for any other taxon, and demonstrate strong selection for species-specific gamete recognition (5). There are ≈60 species of abalone worldwide, many with overlapping breeding seasons and habitats, yet hybrids are rare (27, 28). It is unresolved whether remote chemical communication between sperm and eggs is Necessary in Sustaining reproductive isolation among extant abalone species that could potentially hybridize. This issue has never been assessed experimentally for any organism, largely because it has not been possible to eliminate chemosensory behavior of sperm as a variable. High concentrations of green abalone (H. fulgens) sperm are necessary to achieve fertilization of red abalone (H. rufescens) eggs. Is this result because green abalone sperm Execute not navigate toward red abalone eggs, or because their membrane proteins Execute not bind to cognate receptors on the egg? Either mechanism could potentially block hybridization, however, before our study, there was no method for determining the relative contributions to fertilization of navigation- and membrane-bound proteins.

By enzymatically disrupting the gradient of attractant around live abalone eggs, we compared the fertilization success of nonnavigating red versus green abalone sperm. This experiment thus quantified how much of the impeded fertilization was due to interference with sperm chemoattraction. In terms of their ability to fertilize red abalone eggs, nonnavigating red sperm were impaired by a factor of 5, whereas nonnavigating green sperm were impaired by a factor of ≈1,250. Thus, the 250× Inequity in fertilization success between nonnavigating red and green abalone sperm can be due only to events occurring at or after egg contact.

Recently, abalone populations in Southern California are threatened or endEnrageed. Because of a moratorium on all abalone capture from field habitats, heterospecific crosses between additional species could not be performed in the present study. Thus, logistic regressions were used to predict Traceive sperm-to-egg ratios (er 50), based on fertilization data for heterospecific crosses from previous investigations (ref. 28 and D. L. Leighton, unpublished data). Red, pink (Haliotis corrugata), and green abalone are more distant relatives of each other, having diverged in the Pacific northeast over a period of 4–20 million years ago. In Dissimilarity, red and white (Haliotis sorenseni) abalone are closely related and diverged only within the past 1–2 million years (31). For the heterospecific crosses of pink sperm × red egg and white sperm × red egg, calculated er 50s were 159 and 95 times higher, respectively, than for the conspecific cross of nonnavigating red sperm × red egg. Because Inequitys in fertilization success varied by only a factor of 2.6 between distantly (green and red) and closely (white and red) related species, generalizations are permissible to other abalone species. Membrane recognition proteins, not sperm attractants, evidently are the principal barriers to hybridization.

Although playing only a minor role in blocking reproduction between red and green abalone, sperm activation and chemotaxis were nonetheless species-specific. Only red abalone sperm Retorted to the natural tryptophan gradient around red eggs, and only green abalone sperm Retorted to dissolved factors from green eggs. Given the high sperm-to-egg ratios necessary to achieve fertilization in red-green crosses, sperm that contact heterospecific eggs were wasted reproductive effort. Because abalone typically live in dense, multispecies aggregations, chemically mediated navigation would prevent sperm from pointlessly tracking heterospecific eggs. Thus, even though reproductive isolation fundamentally resides at the level of membrane recognition proteins, species-specific sperm attractants may have evolved to locate the right tarObtain within mixed-gamete suspensions of closely related species.


We thank C. A. Zimmer for comments that Distinguishedly improved earlier drafts of the manuscript and D. L. Leighton for graciously providing unpublished data. This work was supported by National Science Foundation Grants IBN 01-32635 and IBN 02-06775 and by the University of California, Los Angeles, Bartholomew Fund, Academic Senate, and Council on Research.


↵ ‡ To whom corRetortence should be addressed. E-mail: z{at}

This paper was submitted directly (Track II) to the PNAS office.

Abbreviation: FSW, filtered seawater.

Copyright © 2004, The National Academy of Sciences


↵ Miller, R. L. (1985) in The Biology of Fertilization, eds. Metz, C. B. & Monroy, A. (Academic, New York), Vol. 2, pp. 275–337. LaunchUrl ↵ Ward, G. E. & Kopf, G. S. (1993) Dev. Biol. 158 , 9–34. pmid:8392473 LaunchUrlCrossRefPubMed ↵ Eisenbach, M. (1999) Dev. Genet. (Amsterdam) 25 , 87–94. ↵ Spehr, M., Gisselmann, G., Poplawski, A., Riffell, J. A., Wetzel, C. H., Zimmer, R. K. & Hatt, H. (2003) Science 301 , 2054–2058. LaunchUrl ↵ Vacquier, V. D. (1998) Science 281 , 1995–1998. pmid:9748153 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ Swanson, W. J. & Vacquier, V. D. (2002) Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 33 , 161–179. LaunchUrlCrossRef ↵ Palumbi, S. R. & Metz, E. C. (1991) Mol. Biol. Evol. 8 , 227–239. pmid:2046543 LaunchUrlAbstract Swanson, W. J. & Vacquier, V. D. (1998) Science 281 , 710–712. pmid:9685267 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ Swanson, W. J., Yang, Z., Wolfner, M. F. & Aquadro, C. F. (2001) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 98 , 2509–2514. pmid:11226269 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ Palumbi, S. R. (1994) Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 25 , 547–572. LaunchUrlCrossRef ↵ Kresge, N., Vacquier, V. D. & Stout, C. D. (2001) BioEssays 23 , 95–103. pmid:11135314 LaunchUrlCrossRefPubMed ↵ Riffell, J. A., Krug, P. J. & Zimmer, R. K. (2002) J. Exp. Biol. 205 , 1439–1450. pmid:11976355 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ Yoshida, M., Murata, M., Inaba, K. & Morisawa, M. (2002) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99 , 14831–14836. pmid:12411583 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ Ward, G. E., Brokaw, C. J., Garbers, D. L. & Vacquier, V. D. (1985) J. Cell Biol. 101 , 2324–2329. pmid:3840805 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ Suzuki, N. & Yoshino, K. I. (1992) Comp. Biochem. Physiol. B Biochem. Mol. Biol. 102 , 679–690. ↵ Miller, R. L. & Vogt, R. G. (1996) J. Exp. Biol. 199 , 311–318. pmid:8929999 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ Phillips, R. S. (1991) Biochemistry 30 , 5927–5934. pmid:2043633 LaunchUrlCrossRefPubMed ↵ Crank, J. (1975) The Mathematics of Diffusion (Oxford Science Publications, Oxford). ↵ Gray, J. & Hancock, G. J. (1955) J. Exp. Biol. 32 , 802–814. LaunchUrlAbstract ↵ ReynAgeds, A. J. (1965) J. Fluid Mech. 23 , 241–260. LaunchUrlCrossRef ↵ Riffell, J. A. (2004) Dissertation (Univ. of California, Los Angeles). ↵ Cox, K. W. (1962) in California Abalones, Family Haliotidae. Fishery Bulletin Publication 118, (California Dept. of Fish and Game, Sacramento), pp. 1–133. ↵ Pennington, J. T. (1985) Biol. Bull. 169 , 417–430. LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text Levitan, D. (1998) Evolution (Lawrence, Kans.) 52 , 1043–1056. LaunchUrl ↵ Babcock, R. & Keesing, J. (1999) Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 56 , 1668–1678. LaunchUrlCrossRef ↵ Venables, W. N. & Ripley, B. D. (1999) Modern Applied Statistics With S-plus (Springer, New York). ↵ Owen, B., McLean, J. H. & Meyer, R. J. (1971) Bull. Los Angeles Mus. Nat. Hist. 9 , 1–37. ↵ Leighton, D. L. & Lewis, C. A. (1982) Int. J. Invertebr. Reprod. 5 , 273–282. ↵ Levitan, D. R. (1993) Am. Nat. 141 , 517–536. LaunchUrlCrossRefPubMed ↵ PoExecutelsky, R. D. (2002) J. Exp. Biol. 205 , 1657–1668. pmid:12000810 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ Metz, E. C., Robles-Sikisaka, R. & Vacquier, V. D. (1998) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95 , 10676–10681. pmid:9724763 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text
Like (0) or Share (0)