Developmental genetics of chromosome I spermatogenesis-defective mutants in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
S W L'Hernault, D C Shakes, S Ward


Mutations affecting Caenorhabditis elegans spermatogenesis can be used to dissect the processes of meiosis and spermatozoan morphological maturation. We have obtained 23 new chromosome I mutations that affect spermatogenesis (spe mutations). These mutations, together with six previously described mutations, identify 11 complementation groups, of which six are defined by multiple alleles. These spe mutations are all recessive and cause normally self-fertile hermaphrodites to produce unfertilized oocytes that can be fertilized by wild-type male sperm. Five chromosome I mutation/deficiency heterozygotes have similar phenotypes to the homozygote showing that the probable null phenotype of these genes is defective sperm. Spermatogenesis is disrupted at different steps by mutations in these genes. The maturation of 1 degree spermatocytes is disrupted by mutations in spe-4 and spe-5. Spermatids from spe-8 and spe-12 mutants develop into normal spermatozoa in males, but not in hermaphrodites. fer-6 spermatids are abnormal, and fer-1 spermatids look normal but subsequently become abnormal spermatozoa. Mutations in five genes (fer-7, spe-9, spe-11, spe-13 and spe-15) allow formation of normal looking motile spermatozoa that appear to be defective in either sperm-spermathecal or sperm-oocyte interactions.