Male fertility is a global health aspect. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster serves as a convenient and easy-to-handle model organism to study fertility in males and females. My research focuses on molecular and metabolic traits of fertility.
In one project, I investigate the organ and cellular metabolism in insect sperm. This is of special interest since some female insects are capable to store sperm of several males after various matings in distinct storage organs (spermathecae and seminal receptacles) for up to several years. To date, the potential of females to affect metabolic parameters of the stored sperm is little explored. One approach includes the application of a laser scanning microscope with two-photon excitation and Fluorescence-lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM). The analysis of the decay of autofluorescence of metabolites and other intrinsically or extrinsically fluorescent molecules allows conclusions about the current metabolic state and structural composition of a cell or organ in a specific developmental or environmental state.
In a second project, I study the role of the chromatin-packaging proteins protamines in male fertility, sperm storage and sperm competition in Drosophila melanogaster using genetic and molecular techniques. I aim to understand the mode of action of chromatin compaction and its consequences for the generation of fertile and highly functional sperm in insects.