Proteins within the seminal fluid are crucial to keep sperm viable in the honeybee Apis mellifera
Seminal fluid is a biochemically complex mixture of glandular secretions that is transferred to the females sexual tract as part of the ejaculate. Seminal fluid has received increasing scientific interest in the fields of evolutionary and reproductive biology, as it seems a major determinant of male fertility/ infertility and reproductive success. Here we used the honeybee Apis mellifera, where seminal fluid can be collected as part of a male's ejaculate, and performed a series of experiments to investigate the effects of seminal fluid and its components on sperm viability. We show that honeybee seminal fluid is highly potent in keeping sperm alive and this positive effect is present over a 24 h time span, comparable to the timing of the sperm storage process in the queen. We furthermore show that the presence of proteins within the seminal fluid and their structural integrity are crucial for this effect. Finally, we activated sperm using fructose and provide evidence that the positive effect of seminal fluid proteins on sperm survival cannot be replicated using generic protein substitutes. Our data provide experimental insights into the complex molecular interplay between sperm and seminal fluid defining male fertility and reproductive success.
Sexual reproduction, Ejaculate, Fructose, Sperm storage, Male fertility