The role of sperm-mediated gene transfer in genome mutation and evolution
Contradictory evidence surrounds the claim that sperm cells are able to introduce exogenous DNA into the oocyte at the time of fertilisation. Although strong natural barriers exist against sperm-mediated gene transfer, such barriers are unlikely to be absolutely inviolable. If sperm cells can act as vectors for exogenous DNA, it follows that the genome of sexually reproducing animals may be subject to alteration by exogenous DNA sequences carried by sperm cells. At present there are insufficient data to permit quantification of the rate of sperm-mediated gene transfer. The implications of sperm-mediated gene transfer are significant and include evolutionary effects on the mammalian genome and pathologies in humans from de novo mutations. Despite the absence of firm data, geneticists would be wise to be vigilant to the potential consequences of sperm-mediated gene transfer.