Mating systems and protein-protein interactions determine evolutionary rates of primate sperm proteins.
To assess the relative impact of functional constraint and post-mating sexual selection on sequence evolution of reproductive proteins, we examined 169 primate sperm proteins. In order to recognize potential genome-wide trends, we additionally analysed a sample of altogether 318 non-reproductive (brain and postsynaptic) proteins. Based on cDNAs of eight primate species (Anthropoidea), we observed that pre-mating sperm proteins engaged in sperm composition and assembly show significantly lower incidence of site-specific positive selection and overall lower non-synonymous to synonymous substitution rates (dN/dS) across sites as compared with post-mating sperm proteins involved in capacitation, hyperactivation, acrosome reaction and fertilization. Moreover, database screening revealed overall more intracellular protein interaction partners in pre-mating than in post-mating sperm proteins. Finally, post-mating sperm proteins evolved at significantly higher evolutionary rates than pre-mating sperm and non-reproductive proteins on the branches to multi-male breeding species, while no such increase was observed on the branches to unimale and monogamous species. We conclude that less protein-protein interactions of post-mating sperm proteins account for lowered functional constraint, allowing for stronger impact of post-mating sexual selection, while the opposite holds true for pre-mating sperm proteins. This pattern is particularly strong in multi-male breeding species showing high female promiscuity.