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      Neuro-Endocrine Control of Reproduction in Hermaphroditic Freshwater Snails: Mechanisms and Evolution

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          Invertebrates are used extensively as model species to investigate neuro-endocrine processes regulating behaviors, and many of these processes may be extrapolated to vertebrates. However, when it comes to reproductive processes, many of these model species differ notably in their mode of reproduction. A point in case are simultaneously hermaphroditic molluscs. In this review I aim to achieve two things. On the one hand, I provide a comprehensive overview of the neuro-endocrine control of male and female reproductive processes in freshwater snails. Even though the focus will necessarily be on Lymnaea stagnalis, since this is the best-studied species in this respect, extensions to other species are made wherever possible. On the other hand, I will place these findings in the actual context of the whole animal, after all these are simultaneous hermaphrodites. By considering the hermaphroditic situation, I uncover a numbers of possible links between the regulation of the two reproductive systems that are present within this animal, and suggest a few possible mechanisms via which this animal can effectively switch between the two sexual roles in the flexible way that it does. Evidently, this opens up a number of new research questions and areas that explicitly integrate knowledge about behavioral decisions (e.g., mating, insemination, egg laying) and sexual selection processes (e.g., mate choice, sperm allocation) with the actual underlying neuronal and endocrine mechanisms required for these processes to act and function effectively.

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          Most cited references 156

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          Coolidge effect in pond snails: male motivation in a simultaneous hermaphrodite

          Background The simultaneously hermaphroditic pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, can mate in the male and female role, but within one copulation only one sexual role is performed at a time. Previous work has shown that male motivation is determined by the availability of seminal fluid in the prostate gland, which is detected via a nervous connection by the brain area controlling male behaviour. Based on this knowledge, patterns of sexual role alternations within mating pairs can be explained. Results The data presented here reveal that these snails can donate and receive sperm several times within 24 hours, and that they have increased mating rates in larger groups (i.e. more mating opportunities). For mating pairs we show, by introducing novel mating partners after copulation, that animals do inseminate new partners, while they are no longer motivated to inseminate their original partners. Conclusion Our findings provide the first direct evidence for higher motivation in a hermaphrodite to copulate when a new partner is encountered. This Coolidge effect seems to be attenuated when mucus trails are excluded, which suggests that a chemical or textural cue may be responsible for mediating this response to sperm competition.
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            Transcriptome analysis of the central nervous system of the mollusc Lymnaea stagnalis

            Background The freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis (L. stagnalis) has served as a successful model for studies in the field of Neuroscience. However, a serious drawback in the molecular analysis of the nervous system of L. stagnalis has been the lack of large-scale genomic or neuronal transcriptome information, thereby limiting the use of this unique model. Results In this study, we report 7,712 distinct EST sequences (median length: 847 nucleotides) of a normalized L. stagnalis central nervous system (CNS) cDNA library, resulting in the largest collection of L. stagnalis neuronal transcriptome data currently available. Approximately 42% of the cDNAs can be translated into more than 100 consecutive amino acids, indicating the high quality of the library. The annotated sequences contribute 12% of the predicted transcriptome size of 20,000. Surprisingly, approximately 37% of the L. stagnalis sequences only have a tBLASTx hit in the EST library of another snail species Aplysia californica (A. californica) even using a low stringency e-value cutoff at 0.01. Using the same cutoff, approximately 67% of the cDNAs have a BLAST hit in the NCBI non-redundant protein and nucleotide sequence databases (nr and nt), suggesting that one third of the sequences may be unique to L. stagnalis. Finally, using the same cutoff (0.01), more than half of the cDNA sequences (54%) do not have a hit in nematode, fruitfly or human genome data, suggesting that the L. stagnalis transcriptome is significantly different from these species as well. The cDNA sequences are enriched in the following gene ontology functional categories: protein binding, hydrolase, transferase, and catalytic enzymes. Conclusion This study provides novel molecular insights into the transcriptome of an important molluscan model organism. Our findings will contribute to functional analyses in neurobiology, and comparative evolutionary biology. The L. stagnalis CNS EST database is available at .
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              Male Accessory Gland Protein Reduces Egg Laying in a Simultaneous Hermaphrodite

              Seminal fluid is an important part of the ejaculate of internally fertilizing animals. This fluid contains substances that nourish and activate sperm for successful fertilization. Additionally, it contains components that influence female physiology to further enhance fertilization success of the sperm donor, possibly beyond the recipient's optimum. Although evidence for such substances abounds, few studies have unraveled their identities, and focus has been exclusively on separate-sex species. We present the first detailed study into the seminal fluid composition of a hermaphrodite (Lymnaea stagnalis). Eight novel peptides and proteins were identified from the seminal-fluid-producing prostate gland and tested for effects on oviposition, hatching and consumption. The gene for the protein found to suppress egg mass production, Ovipostatin, was sequenced, thereby providing the first fully-characterized seminal fluid substance in a simultaneous hermaphrodite. Thus, seminal fluid peptides and proteins have evolved and can play a crucial role in sexual selection even when the sexes are combined.

                Author and article information

                Front Behav Neurosci
                Front. Behav. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
                Frontiers Research Foundation
                10 July 2010
                21 October 2010
                : 4
                1simpleAnimal Ecology, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
                Author notes

                Edited by: Kathleen A. French, University of California San Diego, USA

                Reviewed by: Kathleen A. French, University of California San Diego, USA; Russell Wyeth, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada

                *Correspondence: Joris M. Koene, Animal Ecology, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081HV Amsterdam, Netherlands.; e-mail: joris.koene@
                Copyright © 2010 Koene.

                This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 153, Pages: 17, Words: 15186
                Review Article


                mollusc, neuropeptide, sexual selection, hormone, sperm, eggs, hermaphrodite, pulmonate


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