Sperm competition in the absence of fertilization in Caenorhabditis elegans

Andrew Singson, Katherine L. Hill, Steven W. L'Hernault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Hermaphrodite self-fertilization is the primary mode of reproduction in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. However, when a hermaphrodite is crossed with a male, nearly all of the oocytes are fertilized by male-derived sperm. This sperm precedence during reproduction is due to the competitive superiority of male-derived sperm and results in a functional suppression of hermaphrodite self-fertility. In this study, mutant males that inseminate fertilization-defective sperm were used to reveal that sperm competition within a hermaphrodite does not require successful fertilization. However, sperm competition does require normal sperm motility. Additionally, sperm competition is not an absolute process because oocytes not fertilized by male-derived sperm can sometimes be fertilized by hermaphrodite-derived sperm. These results indicate that outcrossed progeny result from a wild- type cross because male-derived sperm are competitively superior and hermaphrodite-derived sperm become unavailable to oocytes. The sperm competition assays described in this study will be useful in further classifying the large number of currently identified mutations that alter sperm function and development in C. elegans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-208
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics

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