Selection in sperm and its consequences: Exploring haploid selection, ageing and epigenetic effects in sperm

  • Datum: 09 juni, kl. 13.00
  • Plats: Lindahlsalen, Evolutionary Biology Centre, EBC, Norbyvägen 14, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Hotzy, Cosima
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Evolutionsbiologi
  • Kontaktperson: Hotzy, Cosima
  • Disputation


Sexually reproducing eukaryotes are typically going through a biphasic life cycle with a diploid and a haploid phase. Unlike in plants where selection on haploid pollen genotypes is well established, the possibility of selection occurring in animal sperm is currently not known. One of the main reasons for this lack of knowledge is the general assumption that due to the shortness and the apparent absence of gene expression in haploid sperm, selection during that phase is unlikely to occur. The aim of this thesis was to fill this gap and address some of the main fundamental questions. I investigated the interaction between sperm phenotype and offspring phenotype with a focus on the trans-generational effects of (i) selection on the haploid sperm genotype, (ii) sperm ageing and (iii) sperm-mediated epigenetic effects. For one, we performed several experimental studies to investigate how selection on the sperm phenotype affects offspring performance in two externally fertilizing fishes, Atlantic salmon and zebrafish. We found that in Atlantic salmon, sperm of intermediate post-activation longevity sire offspring that hatch earlier. In zebrafish, longer living sperm sire more viable offspring with a higher fitness than their short-lived sibling sperm. We explored the mechanisms of these trans-generational effects and found that neither intrinsic post-ejaculation sperm ageing (Atlantic salmon and zebrafish) nor pre-ejaculation sperm ageing (zebrafish) affect offspring performance. However, we identified genetic differences between sperm pools that were obtained by selecting different phenotypes within ejaculates of zebrafish males. These results suggest a genetic basis for intra-ejaculate sperm phenotype variation and show that there is potential for haploid selection in sperm. In a separate experiment, we explored the role of sexual selection in shaping sperm-mediated epigenetic effects, and found that short-time changes in male-male competition affect offspring hatching time and survival. In conclusion, this thesis provides evidence that sperm phenotype affects offspring phenotype, and that sperm phenotype is affected by both epigenetic changes influenced by the male environment and differences in the haploid genome of sperm.