Sex allocation of offspring in mammals is usually considered as a matter of chance, being dependent on whether an X- or a Y-chromosome-bearing spermatozoon reaches the oocyte first. Here we investigated the alternative possibility, namely that the oviducts can recognise X- and Y- spermatozoa, and may thus be able to bias the offspring sex ratio.
By introducing X- or Y-sperm populations into the two separate oviducts of single female pigs using bilateral laparoscopic insemination we found that the spermatozoa did indeed elicit sex-specific transcriptomic responses. Microarray analysis revealed that 501 were consistently altered (P-value < 0.05) in the oviduct in the presence of Y-chromosome-bearing spermatozoa compared to the presence of X-chromosome-bearing spermatozoa. From these 501 transcripts, 271 transcripts (54.1%) were down-regulated and 230 transcripts (45.9%) were up-regulated when the Y- chromosome-bearing spermatozoa was present in the oviduct. Our data showed that local immune responses specific to each sperm type were elicited within the oviduct. In addition, either type of spermatozoa elicits sex-specific signal transduction signalling by oviductal cells.
Our data suggest that the oviduct functions as a biological sensor that screens the spermatozoon, and then responds by modifying the oviductal environment. We hypothesize that there might exist a gender biasing mechanism controlled by the female.
Carmen Almiñana, Ignacio Caballero, Paul Roy Heath, Saeedeh Maleki-Dizaji, Inmaculada Parrilla, Cristina Cuello, Maria Antonia Gil, Jose Luis Vazquez, Juan Maria Vazquez, Jordi Roca, Emilio Arsenio Martinez, William Vincent Holt and Alireza Fazeli. The battle of the sexes starts in the oviduct: modulation of oviductal transcriptome by X and Y-bearing spermatozoa. BMC Genomics 2014, 15:293 doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-293