Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 159–169 | Cite as

Reduced Polymorphism in the Chimpanzee Semen Coagulating Protein, Semenogelin I

  • Sarah B. KinganEmail author
  • Marc Tatar
  • David M. Rand


The semen of many primate species coagulates into a mating plug believed to prevent the sperm of subsequent mating events from accessing the ova. The texture of the coagulum varies among species: from a semisoft mass in humans to a firm plug in chimpanzees. In humans, a component of the coagulum, semenogelin I, also inhibits sperm motility. We tested the hypothesis that polymorphism and divergence at semenogelin I differ among hominoid species with different mating systems. Sequence data for the semenogelin I locus were obtained from 12 humans, 10 chimpanzees, 7 gorillas, and 1 bonobo. Mitochondrial D-loop data were collected from a subset of individuals to assess levels of variation at an unlinked locus. HKA tests using D-loop sequence data revealed a significant reduction of polymorphism at semenogelin I in chimpanzees, consistent with predictions of a selective sweep at this locus. This result was supported by independent HKA tests using polymorphism data from a putatively neutral locus from the literature. Humans show a similar trend toward reduced polymorphism, although HKA tests were only marginally significant. Gorilla sequence data show evidence of functional loss at the semenogelin I locus, indicated by stop codons within the putative open reading frame as well as high levels of polymorphism. Elevated K a/K s ratios within the PanHomo clade suggest a history of positive selection at semenogelin I. Our results suggest that there is a positive relationship between the intensity of sperm competition in a species and the strength of positive Darwinian selection on the seminal protein semenogelin I.


Sperm competition Mating system Polyandry Apes Humans Hominoids Semenogelin Prostate-specific antigen Positive selection Semen 



S.B.K. would like to thank Oliver Ryder and Leona Chemnick at the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species/Zoological Society of San Diego as well as Karen Rice and Mary Sparks at the Southwest National Primate Research Center for providing valuable DNA samples. Michael Palmer, Lea Sheldahl, Faye Lemieux, and Raymond Qwan provided support in conducting this research. Michael Hammer, Michael Nachman, Tasha Altheide, Jason Wilder, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript. This research was funded by the Royce Fellowship for Undergraduate Research at Brown University. Additional support was provided by a grant to M.T. from the NIH (AG16632) and grants to D.M.R. from the NSF (DEB9981497 and DEB0108500).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBrown University, Providence, RI 02912USA

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