Regulation of the Sperm‐to‐oocyte Transition in Caenorhabditis briggsae Hermaphrodites by the Cbr ‐met‐2 and Cbr‐fem‐3 Genes

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In Caenorhabditis briggsae hermaphrodites, spermatogenesis begins in the L4 larval stage and persists into early adulthood. Oogenesis begins after spermatogenesis; the sperm‐to‐oocyte transition is irreversible. The timing of this transition is believed to have evolved in response to selection to maximize the intrinsic growth rate. Sperm‐to‐oocyte transitions occurred early in Cbr‐met‐2 and Cbr‐fem‐3 mutants. These early transitions resulted in reduced brood sizes, but had little or no impact on the intrinsic growth rate. In Cbr‐met‐2; Cbr‐fem‐3 doubly mutant hermaphrodites, the transition to oogenesis occurred even earlier and brood size was further reduced, indicating that Cbr‐met‐2 and Cbr‐fem‐3 regulate the sperm‐to‐oocyte transition through separate pathways. Mutations in Cbr‐met‐2 also resulted in an increase in the frequency of males in mutant populations. These increased male frequencies were not caused by increased rates of X nondisjunction during oogenesis in mutant hermaphrodites. Rather, increases in the rates of outcrossing in mutant populations likely were an indirect effect of reduced brood sizes derived from self‐fertilization. Based on these observations, it is possible that the timing of the sperm‐to‐oocyte transition in C. briggsae evolved in response to sexual selection on hermaphrodites to limit rates of outcrossing. Mutations in the orthologous Caenorhabditis elegans gene, Cel‐met‐2, did not impact the timing of the sperm‐to‐oocyte transition, consistent with the independent evolution of hermaphroditic reproduction in these species. Although brood sizes were reduced in Cel‐met‐2 mutant strains, increased male frequencies were not observed. Cbr‐ and Cel‐met‐2 mutations also differed in terms of germline mortality, observed in C. elegans, but not in C. briggsae.



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