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PLoS genetics

Genetic disruption of the copulatory plug in mice leads to severely reduced fertility.


PMID 23341775

Abstract

Seminal fluid proteins affect fertility at multiple stages in reproduction. In many species, a male's ejaculate coagulates to form a copulatory plug. Although taxonomically widespread, the molecular details of plug formation remain poorly understood, limiting our ability to manipulate the structure and understand its role in reproduction. Here I show that male mice knockouts for transglutaminase IV (Tgm4) fail to form a copulatory plug, demonstrating that this gene is necessary for plug formation and lending a powerful new genetic tool to begin characterizing plug function. Tgm4 knockout males show normal sperm count, sperm motility, and reproductive morphology. However, very little of their ejaculate migrates into the female's reproductive tract, suggesting the plug prevents ejaculate leakage. Poor ejaculate migration leads to a reduction in the proportion of oocytes fertilized. However, Tgm4 knockout males fertilized between 3-11 oocytes, which should be adequate for a normal litter. Nevertheless, females mated to Tgm4 knockout males for approximately 14 days were significantly less likely to give birth to a litter compared to females mated to wild-type males. Therefore, it appears that the plug also affects post-fertilization events such as implantation and/or gestation. This study shows that a gene influencing the viscosity of seminal fluid has a major influence on male fertility.

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06682 Transglutaminase from Streptomyces mobaraensis