Ultrastructural and cytochemical analysis of sperm dimorphism in Drosophila subobscura

M. E. Pasini, C. A. Redi, O. Caviglia, M. E. Perotti

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In Drosophila subobscura the male produces two classes of motile spermatozoa that differ in total length and nucleus length. The significance of this within-ejaculate polymegaly is obscure. We have carried out an ultrastructural and cytochemical analysis of both sperm morphs to understand their possible role at fertilization. Computer-aided analysis was used to clarify the complex three-dimensional structure of the spermatozoa. Short and long spermatozoa have a similar architecture. The axoneme is of the classic insect type and, together with the major mitochondrial derivative, runs for almost the whole sperm length. The axoneme ends just below the sperm apex with a centriole adjacent to the acrosome. Minor differences between the two types of sperm are related to acrosome size, nucleus morphology and relationship between nucleus and minor mitochondrial derivative. Cytophotometry of Feulgen stained samples indicated that long and short spermatozoa contain a similar amount of DNA. Both short and long spermatozoa are transferred and stored in the female upon mating. As they have similar ultrastructural and cytochemical characteristics, both sperm are potentially functional in egg penetration and karyogamy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-175
Number of pages11
JournalTissue and Cell
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • DNA content
  • Drosophila
  • Fertilization
  • Polymorphism
  • Sperm
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Cell Biology


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