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Riders on the sperm: sperm dimorphism and spermatozeugmata in nematodes from the genus Steinernema (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae)

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For more content, see Nematologica.

A comparative ultrastructural study of the male gametes in entomopathogenic nematodes of the genus Steinernema (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae) is based on two species producing monomorphic (S. feltiae) and dimorphic (S. tami) spermatozoa. The spermatozoa of both species are basically the same as in many other Rhabditida. Immature spermatozoa from the testis are unpolarised cells containing a nucleus without a nuclear envelope, mitochondria and membranous organelles (MO), a unique component of the nematode spermatozoa. Mature spermatozoa have a nucleus, mitochondria and emptied MO, each attached to a sperm plasmalemma and opening to the exterior via a pore. Monomorphic mature spermatozoa of S. feltiae are 5 μm in diam., bear pseudopods, and form chains of several cells joined by gap junctions. The dimorphic immature spermatozoa of S. tami form spermatozeugmata where the single giant megaspermatozoon (30-35 μm diam.) bears numerous tiny, 3 μm microspermatozoa, intimately attached to the megaspermatozoon surface by gap junctions. Mature megaspermatozoa from the uterus are motile cells 35-50 μm diam.; they have prominent pseudopods and convey immotile, 2 μm microspermatozoa towards the oviduct. Unlike many other invertebrates, sperm dimorphism in S. tami does not change the basic set and structure of organelles, only their number. The genus Steinernema has two strategies for sperm agglomeration: i) chains of monomorphic spermatozoa of normal size, as in S. feltiae; and ii) spermatozeugmata based on a dramatic size difference between spermatozoa formed in the testis, as exemplified by S. tami. According to the types of sperm agglomeration, the genus Steinernema is divided into two main clades.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Marine Biology, FEB RAS, Vladivostok 690041, Russia; 2: National Agricultural Research Center, Kannondai 3-1-1, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8666, Japan; 3: Institute of Parasitology of RAS, Leninskii pr. 33, Moscow 117071, Russia


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