Amino Acids

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 341–350 | Cite as

A comparative study on the arginine degradation cascade for sperm maturation ofBombyx mori andDrosophila melanogaster

  • M. Osanai
  • P. S. Chen


The spermatophore of the silkmoth,Bombyx mori, is a reactor with a specific energy-yielding system for sperm maturation, the arginine degradation cascade. On mating, the highly viscous secretions from various glands in the male reproductive tract, which contain many enzymes and their substrates, are transferred to the female bursa (b.) copulatrix to form the spermatophore. In the spermatophore, transferred arginine-rich proteins are digested by initiatorin, an Arg-C endopeptidase of serine-protease type, and a carboxypeptidase. The produced free arginine is then hydrolyzed to urea and ornithine by arginase. Ornithine is metabolized to glutamate, follwed by forming alanine and 2-oxoglutarate. The latter, as a member of TCA-cycle, is a preferred respiratory substrate for spermatozoa and accelerates the post-testicular sperm maturation.

In contrast toBombyx mori, Drosophila melanogaster produces only eupyrene spermatozoa and does not form the spermatophore. The sperm of this dipteran insect acquire motility in the v. seminalis of males. As reported forDrosophila, a high glutamate-pyruvate aminotransferase activity was found in the spermatophore as well as the v. seminalis of the silkmoth. The value in the latter organ reaches 58.3% of the whole male reproductive tract that participates in transfer of the seminal fluid.

In the male reproductive system ofDrosophila, the concentration of arginine is low, whereas those of urea and ammonia are high. The accessory gland secretion contains much phosphoserine. Theses substances are transferred to female uterus with spermatozoa during mating. Most amino acids increase distinctly at 30 min after the termination of mating (ATM) and then decline, suggesting active degradation of transferred proteins in the uterus. As found inBombyx, urea increases at the post-mating period, while ornithine shows a rather low concentration. Ornithine must be converted to glutamate. In this connection, it is notable that alanine rises markedly at 30 min following mating. As in the silkmoth, the energy metabolism of the fruit fly spermatozoa involves also arginine, ornithine, urea, and proline. These findings suggest that the occurrence of the arginine degradation cascade or related metabolic pathway in this insect.


Amino acids Arginine degradation cascade Sperm maturation Aminotransferase Spermatophore Bombyx mori Drosophila melanogaster 



after the termination of mating










l-glutamate-pyruvate aminotransferase


reduced nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide


tricarbonic acid




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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Osanai
    • 1
  • P. S. Chen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyFaculty of Science, Kanazawa University, KakumamachiKanazawaJapan
  2. 2.Zoologisches InstitutUniversität ZürichZürichSwitzerland

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