Genetic and phenotypic influences on copulatory plug survival in mice

R. Mangels, B. Young, S. Keeble, R. Ardekani, C. Meslin, Z. Ferreira, N. L. Clark, J. M. Good, M. D. Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Across a diversity of animals, male seminal fluid coagulates upon ejaculation to form a hardened structure known as a copulatory plug. Previous studies suggest that copulatory plugs evolved as a mechanism for males to impede remating by females, but detailed investigations into the time course over which plugs survive in the female's reproductive tract are lacking. Here, we cross males from eight inbred strains to females from two inbred strains of house mice (Mus musculus domesticus). Plug survival was significantly affected by male genotype. Against intuition, plug survival time was negatively correlated with plug size: long-lasting plugs were small and relatively more susceptible to proteolysis. Plug size was associated with divergence in major protein composition of seminal vesicle fluid, suggesting that changes in gene expression may play an important role in plug dynamics. In contrast, we found no correlation to genetic variation in the protein-coding regions of five genes thought to be important in copulatory plug formation (Tgm4, Svs1, Svs2, Svs4 and Svs5). Our study demonstrates a complex relationship between copulatory plug characteristics and survival. We discuss several models to explain unexpected variation in plug phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)496-502
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


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