There is pronounced promiscuity and sperm competition in long-tailed field mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). These mice have evolved unusual sperm behaviour favouring rapid fertilisation, including dynamic formation of sperm trains and their subsequent dissociation. The cell surface complement regulatory (CReg) protein CD46 is broadly expressed in eutherian mammals other than rodents, in which it is expressed solely on the spermatozoal acrosomal membrane. Ablation of the CD46 gene has been associated with a faster acrosome reaction (AR) rate in inbred laboratory mice. Here, we demonstrate that wild-caught field mice of three species, A. sylvaticus, A. flavicollis and A. microps, exhibit a more rapid AR than wild-caught house mice Mus musculus or inbred laboratory BALB/c mice. We also demonstrate that wild-caught field mice of these three species, unlike house mice, produce alternatively spliced transcripts of testicular CD46 mRNA lacking exons 5–7 or 6–7, together with an extended 3' - and often truncated 5'-utr, leading to failure to express any sperm CD46 protein in both the testis and epididymis. Male field mice may therefore have traded expression of this CReg protein for acrosomal instability, providing a novel genus-specific strategy to favour rapid fertilisation and competitive advantage in the promiscuous reproductive behaviour of wild field mice.
Johnson, P. M., Clift, L. E., Andrlikova, P., Jursova, M., Flanagan, B. F., Cummerson, J. A., Stopka, P., & Dvorakova-Hortova, K. (2007). Rapid sperm acrosome reaction in the absence of acrosomal CD46 expression in promiscuous field mice (Apodemus). Reproduction, 134, 739–747. https://doi.org/10.1530/REP-07-0363