Signatures of fe-/male fertility - Using long-term selection for high fertility to decipher the genetics of increased reproductive performance (SOS-FERT)

By comparing genomes of high fertility mouse lines with genomes of non-selected mice we aim to identify signatures of selection (= occurrence and frequency patterns of alleles causal for the selected reproductive trait). General applicability of results will then be tested in other mammal species (pigs, lions). Sperm parameters to correlate male fertility will be evaluated.

Project details
Duration: 05/2018- 10/2022
Third-party funded: yes
Involved Department(s): Dept Reproduction BiologyDept Evolutionary Genetics
Leibniz-IZW Project Leader(s): Karin Müller (Dept Reproduction Biology), Jörns Fickel (Dept Evolutionary Genetics)
Leibniz-IZW Project Team:

Dorina Lenz (Dept Evolutionary Genetics)

Consortium Partner(s):

Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) at Kiel University, Institute for Reproduction of Farm Animals Schönow e.V., Bundes Hybrid Zucht Programm GmbH (BHZP), GEOlifes

Current Funding Organisation: Leibniz Competition
Research Foci:
Understanding traits and evolutionary adaptations


Curative therapies for infertility are rare, because the complex network of mechanisms determining reproductive success is largely unknown. To decipher parts of this network we use worldwide unique mouse lines created by long-term selection (180 generations) for the integrative fertility traits “increased litter size and weight”. These traits comprise core reproductive processes (i. a. gonad development, gamete recruitment, ovulation, fertilization and embryonic/fetal development).

In the selection mouse lines, 45 years of litter size maximization have carved the causal alleles out of the genome as patterns of genetic invariance, the so-called “signatures of selection”. We aim to detect these characteristic frequency patterns of alleles causal for the selected traits and identify the affected genes and pathways. We test if the genomic patterns resulting from selection for increased litter size (a primarily female trait) are also relevant for male reproductive physiology and performance. Finally, we employ comparative animal models to verify their general significance. With this project we will provide substantial new knowledge about the network of genes and pathways actually relevant for controlling central reproductive processes in mammals.

The Leibniz-IZW contributes to this project the analysis of pig and lion genomes (Department of Evolutionary Genetics), with the aim to verify whether genetic signatures of high fertility can be identified in mammalian species other than mice. The Department of Reproduction Biology contributes the analysis of sperm parameters to the joint project.

Selected Publications

coming soon