Identification and characterization of the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) sperm proteome

Melissah Rowe, Sheri Skerget, Matthew A. Rosenow, Timothy L. Karr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Spermatozoa exhibit remarkable variability in size, shape, and performance. Our understanding of the molecular basis of this variation, however, is limited, especially in avian taxa. The zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) is a model organism in the study of avian sperm biology and sperm competition. Using LC-MS based proteomics, we identify and describe 494 proteins of the zebra finch sperm proteome (ZfSP). Gene ontology and associated bioinformatics analyses revealed a rich repertoire of proteins essential to sperm structure and function, including proteins linked to metabolism and energetics, as well as tubulin binding and microtubule related functions. The ZfSP also contained a number of immunity and defense proteins and proteins linked to sperm motility and sperm-egg interactions. Additionally, while most proteins in the ZfSP appear to be evolutionarily constrained, a small subset of proteins are evolving rapidly. Finally, in a comparison with the sperm proteome of the domestic chicken, we found an enrichment of proteins linked to catalytic activity and cytoskeleton related processes. As the first described passerine sperm proteome, and one of only two characterized avian sperm proteomes, the ZfSP provides a significant step towards a platform for studies of the molecular basis of sperm function and evolution in birds. Significance: Using highly purified spermatozoa and LC-MS proteomics, we characterise the sperm proteome of the Zebra finch; the main model species for the avian order Passeriformes, the largest and most diverse of the avian clades. As the first described passerine sperm proteome, and one of only two reported avian sperm proteomes, these results will facilitate studies of sperm biology and mechanisms of fertilisation in passerines, as well as comparative studies of sperm evolution and reproduction across birds and other vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-204
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Proteomics
StatePublished - Feb 20 2019


  • Avian sperm
  • Passerines
  • Positive selection
  • Sexual reproduction
  • Sperm proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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