During spermatogenesis, a large fraction of cellular proteins is degraded as the spermatids evolve to their elongated mature forms. In particular, histones must be degraded in early elongating spermatids to permit chromatin condensation. Our laboratory previously demonstrated the activation of ubiquitin conjugation during spermatogenesis. This activation is dependent on the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2) UBC4, and a testis-particular isoform, UBC4-testis, is induced when histones are degraded. Therefore, we tested whether there are UBC4-dependent ubiquitin protein ligases (E3s) that can ubiquitinate histones. Indeed, a novel enzyme, E3Histone, which could conjugate ubiquitin to histones H1, H2A, H2B, H3, and H4 in vitro, was found. Only the UBC4/UBC5 family of E2s supported E3Histone-dependent ubiquitination of histone H2A, and of this family, UBC4-1 and UBC4-testis are the preferred E2s. We purified this ligase activity 3,600-fold to near homogeneity. Mass spectrometry of the final material revealed the presence of a 482-kDa HECT domain-containing protein, which was previously named LASU1. Anti-LASU1 antibodies immunodepleted E3Histone activity. Mass spectrometry and size analysis by gel filtration and glycerol gradient centrifugation suggested that E3Histone is a monomer of LASU1. Our assays also show that this enzyme is the major UBC4-1-dependent histone-ubiquitinating E3. E3Histone is therefore a HECT domain E3 that likely plays an important role in the chromatin condensation that occurs during spermatid maturation.
The ADP-ribosylation factor-like protein 4 (ARL4) is a 22-kDa GTP-binding protein which is abundant in testes of pubertal and adult rodents but absent in testes from prepubertal animals. During testis development, ARL4 expression starts at day 16 when the spermatogenesis proceeds to the late pachytene. In the adult testis, the ARL4 protein was detected in pre- and postmeiotic cells, spermatocytes, and spermatides, but not in spermatogonia and mature spermatozoa. Mouse Arl4-null mutants generated by targeted disruption of the Arl4 gene were viable and grew normally; male as well as female Arl4−/− mice were fertile. However, inactivation of the Arl4 gene resulted in a significant reduction of testis weight and sperm count by 30 and 60%, respectively, without reduction of litter size or frequency. It is suggested that the disruption of Arl4 produces a moderate retardation of germ cell development, possibly at the stage of meiosis.
The Saccharomyces cerevisiae ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2s) UBC4 and UBC5 are essential for degradation of short-lived and abnormal proteins. We previously identified rat cDNAs encoding two E2s with strong sequence similarity to UBC4 and UBC5. These E2 isoforms are widely expressed in rat tissues, consistent with a fundamental cellular function for these E2s. We now report a new isoform, 8A, which despite having >91% amino acid identity with the other isoforms, shows several novel features. Expression of the 8A isoform appears restricted to the testis, is absent in early life, but is induced during puberty. Hypophysectomy reduced expression of the 8A isoform. In situ hybridization studies indicated that 8A mRNA is expressed mainly in round spermatids. Immunoblot analyses showed that 8A protein is found not only in subfractions of germ cells enriched in round spermatids but also in subfractions containing residual bodies extruded from more mature elongated spermatids, indicating that the protein possesses a longer half-life than the mRNA. Unlike all previously identified mammalian and plant homologs of S. cerevisiae UBC4, which possess a basic pI, the 8A isoform is unique in possessing an acidic pI. The small differences in sequence between the 8A isoform and other rat isoforms conferred differences in biochemical function. The 8A isoform was less effective than an isoform with a basic pI or ineffective in conjugating ubiquitin to certain fractions of testis proteins. Thus, although multiple isoforms of a specific E2 may exist to ensure performance of a critical cellular function, our data demonstrate, for the first time, that multiple genes also permit highly specialized regulation of expression of specific isoforms and that subtle differences in E2 primary structure can dictate conjugation of ubiquitin to different subsets of cellular proteins.
Previously, it was shown that the CTCF paralogous gene, BORIS (brother of the regulator of imprinted sites) is expressed in male germ cells, but its function in spermatogenesis has not been defined. To develop an understanding of the functional activities of BORIS, we generated BORIS knockout (KO) mice. Mice homozygous for the null allele had a defect in spermatogenesis that resulted in small testes associated with increased cell death. The defect was evident as early as postnatal day 21 and was manifested by delayed production of haploid cells. By gene expression profiling, we found that transcript levels for Gal3st1 (also known as cerebroside sulfotransferase [CST]), known to play a crucial role in meiosis, were dramatically reduced in BORIS KO testes. We found that CST is expressed in testis as a novel testis-specific isoform, CST form FTS, that has a short exon 1f. We showed that BORIS bound to and activated the promoter of CST form FTS. Mutation of the BORIS binding site in the promoter reduced the ability of BORIS to activate the promoter. These findings define transcriptional regulation of CST expression as a critical role for BORIS in spermatogenesis.
Testicular orphan nuclear receptor 4 (TR4) is specifically and stage-dependently expressed in late-stage pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids. In the developing mouse testis, the highest expression of TR4 can be detected at postnatal days 16 to 21 when the first wave of spermatogenesis progresses to late meiotic prophase. Using a knockout strategy to delete TR4 in mice, we found that sperm production in TR4−/− mice is reduced. The comparison of testes from developing TR4+/+ and TR4−/− mice shows that spermatogenesis in TR4−/− mice is delayed. Analysis of the first wave of spermatogenesis shows that the delay can be due to delay and disruption of spermatogenesis at the end of late meiotic prophase and subsequent meiotic divisions. Seminiferous tubule staging shows that stages X to XII, where late meiotic prophase and meiotic divisions take place, are delayed and disrupted in TR4−/− mice. Histological examination of testis sections from TR4−/− mice shows degenerated primary spermatocytes and some necrotic tubules. Testis-specific gene analyses show that the expression of sperm 1 and cyclin A1, which are genes expressed at the end of meiotic prophase, was delayed and decreased in TR4−/− mouse testes. Taken together, results from TR4+/+ and TR4−/− mice indicate that TR4 is essential for normal spermatogenesis in mice.
Spermatogenesis is an intricate process in which spermatogonial stem cells divide and differentiate to produce mature sperm. This process strongly depends on protein turnover both in the developing germ cells and the supportive Sertoli cells, and recent evidence has demonstrated the role of the ubiquitin-proteasome system in this protein turnover in the testis. Itch, an E3 ligase important in the immune system, has been implicated in regulating the blood testis barrier. Although the specific role of Itch during spermatogenesis is not yet well understood, its ubiquitous expression and wide array of functional targets suggest multiple and tissue-specific roles. Here the testes of mice that lack Itch protein are evaluated at two developmental time points: peri-pubertal postnatal day (PND) 28 and adult PND 56. Itchy mice demonstrate an increased germ cell apoptotic index compared with wild type C57BL/6J mice at both PND 28 and PND 56. A corresponding 27% reduction in the total number of spermatid heads produced in PND 56 itchy mice was also evident. A histological evaluation of itchy mice revealed a delay in spermatogenesis at PND 28 and disorganization of late stage spermatids at PND 56. An analysis of several apoptotic markers revealed an age-dependent change in cleaved caspase 9, an intrinsic apoptosis mediator. The breeding success of the itchy mice was also significantly decreased, possibly due to a developmental defect. Taken together, these findings indicate that Itch is required for functional spermatogenesis, and that it may play differing cellular roles during development.
itchy; Apoptosis; E3 ligase; Itch; spermatogenesis; testis; ubiquitin
We have identified a developmentally essential gene, UbcB, by insertional mutagenesis. The encoded protein (UBC1) shows very high amino acid sequence identity to ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes from other organisms, suggesting that UBC1 is involved in protein ubiquitination and possibly degradation during Dictyostelium development. Consistent with the homology of the UBC1 protein to UBCs, the developmental pattern of protein ubiquitination is altered in ubcB-null cells. ubcB-null cells are blocked in the ability to properly execute the developmental transition that occurs between the induction of postaggregative gene expression during mound formation and the induction of cell-type differentiation and subsequent morphogenesis. ubcB-null cells plated on agar form mounds with normal kinetics; however, they remain at this stage for ∼10 h before forming multiple tips and fingers that then arrest. Under other conditions, some of the fingers form migrating slugs, but no culmination is observed. In ubcB-null cells, postaggregative gene transcripts accumulate to very high levels and do not decrease significantly with time as they do in wild-type cells. Expression of cell-type-specific genes is very delayed, with the level of prespore-specific gene expression being significantly reduced compared with that in wild-type cells. lacZ reporter studies using developmentally regulated and cell-type-specific promoters suggest that ubcB-null cells show an unusually elevated level of staining of lacZ reporters expressed in anterior-like cells, a regulatory cell population found scattered throughout the aggregate, and reduced staining of a prespore reporter. ubcB-null cells in a chimeric organism containing predominantly wild-type cells are able to undergo terminal differentiation but show altered spatial localization. In contrast, in chimeras containing only a small fraction of wild-type cells, the mature fruiting body is very small and composed almost exclusively of wild-type cells, with the ubcB-null cells being present as a mass of cells located in extreme posterior of the developing organism. The amino acid sequence analysis of the UbcB open reading frame (ORF) and the analysis of the developmental phenotypes suggest that tip formation and subsequent development requires specific protein ubiquitination, and possibly degradation.
Many proteins are modified by conjugation with Sumo, a gene-encoded, ubiquitin-related peptide, which is transferred to its target proteins via an enzymatic cascade. A central component of this cascade is the E2-conjugating enzyme Ubc9, which is highly conserved across species. Loss-of-function studies in yeast, nematode, fruit fly, and mouse blastocystes point to multiple roles of Ubc9 during cell cycle regulation, maintenance of nuclear architecture, chromosome segregation, and viability. Here we show that in zebrafish embryos, reduction of Ubc9 activity by expression of a dominant negative version causes widespread apoptosis, similar to the effect described in Ubc9-deficient mice. However, antisense-based knock down of zygotic ubc9 leads to much more specific defects in late proliferating tissues, such as cranial cartilage and eyes. Affected cartilaginous elements are of relatively normal size and shape, but consist of fewer and larger cells. Stainings with mitotic markers and 5-Bromo-2′-deoxyuridine incorporation studies indicate that fewer chondrocyte precursors are in mitosis, whereas the proportion of cells in S-phase is unaltered. Consistently, FACS analyses reveal an increase in the number of cells with a DNA content of 4n or even 8n. Our data indicate an in vivo requirement of Ubc9 for G2/M transition and/or progression through mitosis during vertebrate organogenesis. Failed mitosis in the absence of Ubc9 is not necessarily coupled with cell death. Rather, cells can continue to replicate their DNA, grow to a larger size, and finish their normal developmental program.
The transcription factor ets variant gene 5 (ETV5; also known as ERM) is essential for self-renewal of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). Mice with targeted disruption of Etv5 (Etv5−/−) undergo the first wave of spermatogenesis, but all SSCs are lost during this time, causing a Sertoli cell-only phenotype. This study examined body and testis growth and the time course of SSC loss in Etv5−/− mice to understand how loss of ETV5 impacts testicular and somatic development. Body weights were reduced in postnatal Etv5−/− males, indicating a role of ETV5 in growth. Testis weights and histology in Etv5−/− and wild-type (WT) males were similar at Postnatal Day 4, but testis weights were reduced at d8 and subsequently, indicating that ETV5 impacts postnatal testis growth. SSC density (SSCs per μm2 of seminiferous tubule), estimated using an antibody against GFRA1, was similar in 4d WT and Etv5−/− mice. By 8 and 12d, GFRA1-positive cell density in Etv5−/− mice was decreased 17% and 32%, respectively, vs. WT. By 28d, GFRA1-positive cell density in Etv5−/− was reduced 95%, and GFRA1-positive cells were absent in 36d Etv5−/− males. In contrast to WT, 35- to 56-day-old Etv5−/− mice were infertile as assessed by natural breeding, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization, although motile sperm were present in epididymides of Etv5−/− mice during this time. In summary, initial testis development is normal in Etv5−/− mice despite decreased body weight, but SSC loss begins between 4 and 8d of age, indicating that ETV5 has effects beginning in the early neonatal period. Etv5−/− mice are infertile even when sperm is produced, indicating that ETV5 loss has other effects besides lack of SSC self-renewal that impair fertility.
germ cells; sertoli cells; spermatogenesis; stem cell niche
The first wave of spermatogenesis in mammals is characterized by a sequential and synchronous appearance of germ cells in the prepubertal testis. Post-transcriptional controls of gene expression play important roles in this process but the molecular actors that underlie them are poorly known.
We evaluated the requirement for the RNA-binding protein CELF1 during the first wave of spermatogenesis in mice. Mice inactivated for Celf1 gene were not viable on pure genetic backgrounds. On a mixed background, we observed by histology and gene profiling by RT-qPCR that the testes of inactivated prepubertal mice were characterized by several features. (i) Spermiogenesis (differentiation of post-meiotic cells) was blocked in a subset of prepubertal inactivated mice. (ii) The appearance of the different stages of germ cell development was delayed by several days. (iii) The expression of markers of Leydig cells functions was similarly delayed.
Celf1 disruption is responsible for a blockage of spermiogenesis both in adults and in prepubertal males. Hence, the spermiogenesis defects found in Celf1-inactivated adults appear from the first wave of spermiogenesis. The disruption of Celf1 gene is also responsible for a fully penetrant delayed first wave of spermatogenesis, and a delay of steroidogenesis may be the cause for the delay of germ cells differentiation.
The ubiquitin conjugating enzyme E2 (UBC E2) mediates selective ubiquitination, acting with E1 and E3 enzymes to designate specific proteins for subsequent degradation. In the present study, we characterized the function of the mung bean VrUBC1 gene (Vigna radiata UBC 1). RNA gel-blot analysis showed that VrUBC1 mRNA expression was induced by either dehydration, high salinity or by the exogenous abscisic acid (ABA), but not by low temperature or wounding. Biochemical studies of VrUBC1 recombinant protein and complementation of yeast ubc4/5 by VrUBC1 revealed that VrUBC1 encodes a functional UBC E2. To understand the function of this gene in development and plant responses to osmotic stresses, we overexpressed VrUBC1 in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). The VrUBC1-overexpressing plants displayed highly sensitive responses to ABA and osmotic stress during germination, enhanced ABA- or salt-induced stomatal closing, and increased drought stress tolerance. The expression levels of a number of key ABA signaling genes were increased in VrUBC1-overexpressing plants compared to the wild-type plants. Yeast two-hybrid and bimolecular fluorescence complementation demonstrated that VrUBC1 interacts with AtVBP1 (A. thaliana
VrUBC1 Binding Partner 1), a C3HC4-type RING E3 ligase. Overall, these results demonstrate that VrUBC1 plays a positive role in osmotic stress tolerance through transcriptional regulation of ABA-related genes and possibly through interaction with a novel RING E3 ligase.
Events within and transitions between the phases of the eukaryotic cell cycle are tightly controlled by transcriptional and post-translational processes. Prominent among them is a profound role for the ubiquitin proteasome proteolytic pathway. The timely degradation of proteins balances the increases in gene products dictated by changes in transcription. Of the dozens of ubiquitin conjugating enzymes, or E2s, functions in control of the cell cycle have been defined for only UbcH10 and Ubc3/Cdc34. Each of these E2s works primarily with one ubiquitin ligase or E3. Here we show that another E2, UbcH7 is a regulator of S phase of the cell cycle. Over-expression of UbcH7 delays entry into S phase whereas depletion of UbcH7 increases the length of S phase and decreases cell proliferation. Additionally, the level of the checkpoint kinase Chk1 increases upon UbcH7 depletion while the level of phosphorylated PTEN decreases. Taken together, these data indicate that the length of S phase is controlled in part by UbcH7 through a PTEN/Akt/Chk1 pathway. Potential mechanisms by which UbcH7 controls Chk1 levels both directly and indirectly, as well as the length of S phase are discussed and additional functions for UbcH7 are reviewed.
Cell cycle events are regulated by sequential activation and inactivation of Cdk kinases. Mitotic exit is accomplished by the inactivation of mitotic Cdk kinase, which is mainly achieved by degradation of cyclins. The ubiquitin-proteasome system is involved in this process, requiring APC/C (anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome) as a ubiquitin ligase. In Xenopus and clam oocytes, the ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes that function with APC/C have been identified as two proteins, UBC4 and UBCx/E2-C. Previously we reported that the fission yeast ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UbcP4/Ubc11, a homologue of UBCx/E2-C, is required for mitotic transition. Here we show that the other fission yeast ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, UbcP1/Ubc4, which is homologous to UBC4, is also required for mitotic transition in the same manner as UbcP4/Ubc11. Both ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes are essential for cell division and directly required for the degradation of mitotic cyclin Cdc13. They function nonredundantly in the ubiquitination of CDC13 because a defect in ubcP1/ubc4+ cannot be suppressed by high expression of UbcP4/Ubc11 and a defect in ubcP4/ubc11+ cannot be suppressed by high expression of UbcP1/Ubc4. In vivo analysis of the ubiquitinated state of Cdc13 shows that the ubiquitin chains on Cdc13 were short in ubcP1/ubc4 mutant cells while ubiquitinated Cdc13 was totally reduced in ubcP4/ubc11 mutant cells. Taken together, these results indicate that the two ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes play distinct and essential roles in the degradation of mitotic cyclin Cdc13, with the UbcP4/Ubc11-pathway initiating ubiquitination of Cdc13 and the UbcP1/Ubc4-pathway elongating the short ubiquitin chains on Cdc13.
UBC9 encodes a protein that conjugates small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) to target proteins thereby changing their functions. Recently, it was noted that UBC9 expression and activity play a role in breast tumorigenesis and response to anticancer drugs. However, the underlying mechanism is poorly understood. To investigate the transcriptional regulation of the UBC9 gene, we identified and characterized its promoter and cis-elements. Promoter activity was tested using luciferase reporter assays. The binding of transcription factors to the promoter was detected by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), and their functional role was confirmed by siRNA knockdown. UBC9 mRNA and protein levels were measured by quantitative reverse transcription PCR and Western blot analysis, respectively. An increased expression of UBC9 mRNA and protein was found in MCF-7 breast cancer cells treated with 17β-estradiol (E2). Analysis of various deletion mutants revealed a 137 bp fragment upstream of the transcription initiation site to be sufficient for reporter gene transcription. Mutations of putative estrogen receptor α (ER-α) (one imperfect estrogen response element, ERE) and/or nuclear factor Y (NF-Y) binding sites (two CCAAT boxes) markedly reduced promoter activity. Similar results were obtained in ER-negative MDA-MB-231 cells except that the ERE mutation did not affect promoter activity. Additionally, promoter activity was stimulated upon E2 treatment and overexpression of ER-α or NF-YA in MCF-7 cells. ChIP confirmed direct binding of both transcription factors to the UBC9 promoter in vivo. Furthermore, UBC9 expression was diminished by ER-α and NF-Y siRNAs on the mRNA and protein levels. In conclusion, we identified the proximal UBC9 promoter and provided evidence that ER-α and NF-Y regulate UBC9 expression on the transcriptional level in response to E2 in MCF-7 cells. These findings may contribute to a better understanding of the regulation of UBC9 in ER-positive breast cancer and be useful for the development of cancer therapies targeting UBC9.
During mammalian spermiogenesis, major restructuring of chromatin takes place. In the mouse, the histones are replaced by the transition proteins, TP1 and TP2, which are in turn replaced by the protamines, P1 and P2. To investigate the role of TP2, we generated mice with a targeted deletion of its gene, Tnp2. Spermatogenesis in Tnp2 null mice was almost normal, with testis weights and epididymal sperm counts being unaffected. The only abnormality in testicular histology was a slight increase of sperm retention in stage IX to XI tubules. Epididymal sperm from Tnp2-null mice showed an increase in abnormal tail, but not head, morphology. The mice were fertile but produced small litters. In step 12 to 16 spermatid nuclei from Tnp2-null mice, there was normal displacement of histones, a compensatory translationally regulated increase in TP1 levels, and elevated levels of precursor and partially processed forms of P2. Electron microscopy revealed abnormal focal condensations of chromatin in step 11 to 13 spermatids and progressive chromatin condensation in later spermatids, but condensation was still incomplete in epididymal sperm. Compared to that of the wild type, the sperm chromatin of these mutants was more accessible to intercalating dyes and more susceptible to acid denaturation, which is believed to indicate DNA strand breaks. We conclude that TP2 is not a critical factor for shaping of the sperm nucleus, histone displacement, initiation of chromatin condensation, binding of protamines to DNA, or fertility but that it is necessary for maintaining the normal processing of P2 and, consequently, the completion of chromatin condensation.
An overabundance of UbcH10 disrupts mitotic checkpoint signaling as a result of a degradation of cyclin B, increasing spontaneous and carcinogen-induced tumor formation in transgenic mice.
The anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) E3 ubiquitin ligase functions with the E2 ubiquitin–conjugating enzyme UbcH10 in the orderly progression through mitosis by marking key mitotic regulators for destruction by the 26-S proteasome. UbcH10 is overexpressed in many human cancer types and is associated with tumor progression. However, whether UbcH10 overexpression causes tumor formation is unknown. To address this central question and to define the molecular and cellular consequences of UbcH10 overexpression, we generated a series of transgenic mice in which UbcH10 was overexpressed in graded fashion. In this study, we show that UbcH10 overexpression leads to precocious degradation of cyclin B by the APC/C, supernumerary centrioles, lagging chromosomes, and aneuploidy. Importantly, we find that UbcH10 transgenic mice are prone to carcinogen-induced lung tumors and a broad spectrum of spontaneous tumors. Our results identify UbcH10 as a prominent protooncogene that causes whole chromosome instability and tumor formation over a wide gradient of overexpression levels.
The SUMO E2 Ubc9 serves as a lynchpin in the SUMO conjugation pathway, interacting with the SUMO E1 during activation, with thioester linked SUMO after E1 transfer and with the substrate and SUMO E3 ligases during conjugation. In this manuscript, we describe the structure determination of a non-covalent complex between human Ubc9 and SUMO-1 at 2.4 Å resolution. Non-covalent interactions between Ubc9 and SUMO are conserved in human and yeast insomuch as human Ubc9 interacts with each of the human SUMO isoforms, and yeast Ubc9 interacts with Smt3, the yeast SUMO ortholog. Structural comparisons reveal similarities to several other non-covalent complexes in the ubiquitin pathway, suggesting that the non-covalent Ubc9-SUMO interface may be important for poly-SUMO chain formation, for E2 recruitment to SUMO conjugated substrates, or for mediating E2 interactions with either E1 or E3 ligases. Biochemical analysis suggests this surface is less important for E1 activation or di-SUMO-2 formation, but more important for E3 interactions and for poly-SUMO chain formation when the chain exceeds more than two SUMO proteins.
X-ray structure; SUMO; Ubiquitin-like; conjugation; Smt3; Ubc9
Epigenetic modifications, and methylation of histones in particular, dynamically change during spermatogenesis. Among various methylations of histone H3, methylation of histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9) and its regulation are essential for spermatogenesis. Trimethytransferases as well as dimethyltransferase are required for meiotic progression. In addition, didemethylase of H3K9 is also critical for spermatogenesis through transcriptional regulation of spermatid-specific genes. However, the requirement for demethylation of trimethylated H3K9 (H3K9me3) during spermatogenesis remains to be elucidated. Here, we report the targeted disruption of KDM4D, a testis-enriched tridemethylase of H3K9. Kdm4d-null mice are viable and fertile and do not show any obvious phenotype. However, H3K9me3 accumulates significantly in Kdm4d-null round spermatids, and the distribution of methylated H3K9 in germ cells is dramatically changed. Nevertheless, the progression of spermatogenesis and the number of spermatozoa are normal, likely secondary to the earlier nuclear localization of another H3K9 tridemethylase, KDM4B, in Kdm4d-null elongating spermatids. These results suggest that demethylation of H3K9me3 in round spermatids is dispensable for spermatogenesis but that possible defects in Kdm4d-null elongating spermatids could be rescued by functional redundancy of the KDM4B demethylase.
The testis-enriched histone demethylase, KDM4D, regulates global methylation of histone H3 lysine 9 during spermatogenesis but is not essential for completion of spermatogenesis and fertility.
epigenetics; gamete biology; histone demethylase; spermatogenesis; testis
Phosphoglycerate kinase 2 (PGK2), an isozyme that catalyzes the first ATP-generating step in the glycolytic pathway, is encoded by an autosomal retrogene that is expressed only during spermatogenesis. It replaces the ubiquitously expressed phosphoglycerate kinase 1 (PGK1) isozyme following repression of Pgk1 transcription by meiotic sex chromosome inactivation during meiotic prophase and by postmeiotic sex chromatin during spermiogenesis. The targeted disruption of Pgk2 by homologous recombination eliminates PGK activity in sperm and severely impairs male fertility, but does not block spermatogenesis. Mating behavior, reproductive organ weights (testis, excurrent ducts, and seminal vesicles), testis histology, sperm counts, and sperm ultrastructure were indistinguishable between Pgk2−/− and wild-type mice. However, sperm motility and ATP levels were markedly reduced in males lacking PGK2. These defects in sperm function were slightly less severe than observed in males lacking glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, spermatogenic (GAPDHS), the isozyme that catalyzes the step preceding PGK2 in the sperm glycolytic pathway. Unlike Gapdhs−/− males, the Pgk2−/− males also sired occasional pups. Alternative pathways that bypass the PGK step of glycolysis exist. We determined that one of these bypass enzymes, acylphosphatase, is active in mouse sperm, perhaps contributing to phenotypic differences between mice lacking GAPDHS or PGK2. This study determined that PGK2 is not required for the completion of spermatogenesis, but is essential for sperm motility and male fertility. In addition to confirming the importance of the glycolytic pathway for sperm function, distinctive phenotypic characteristics of Pgk2−/− mice may provide further insights into the regulation of sperm metabolism.
Phosphoglycerate kinase 2, a glycolytic isozyme with restricted expression in the male germline, is required for sperm function and male fertility but not for completion of spermatogenesis.
gene targeting; glycolysis; male fertility; spermatogenesis; sperm metabolism; sperm motility
Reproduction is required for the survival of all animals, yet few reproductive genes have been shown to have a conserved requirement for fertility across the animal kingdom. Remarkably, the RNA binding protein BOULE, the oldest member of the DAZ (Deleted in AZoospermia) family of genes, appears to have maintained its conserved functional motif and spermatogenic expression from insects to humans. Boule mutations lead to a pachytene meiotic arrest before metaphase in Drosophila males and C. elegans females, and human BOULE can restore meiosis in the fly testis, suggesting a conserved meiotic function of human BOULE. However, the physiological function of BOULE in mammals is not yet known. We generated Boule knockout mice and found it to be required only for spermatogenesis, as in Drosophila. Interestingly, meiosis completed normally in the absence of Boule, and haploid round spermatids were readily detected. However, round spermatids did not progress beyond step 6, revealing a novel role for Boule in spermiogenesis, the differentiation of round spermatids into mature spermatozoa. Expression of key regulators of spermiogenesis was unaffected in Boule−/− mice, suggesting that Boule regulates germ-cell differentiation through a novel pathway.
The mechanism responsible for poor reproductive outcomes in type 1 diabetic males is not well understood. In light of new evidence that the Sertoli cells of the testis secrete insulin, it is currently unclear whether diabetic subfertility is the result of deficiency of pancreatic insulin, testicular insulin, or both. In this study, the Akita mouse diabetic model, which expresses a mutant, nonfunctional form of ins2 in testes and pancreas, was used to distinguish between systemic and local effects of insulin deficiency on the process of spermatogenesis and fertility. We determined that Akita homozygous male mice are infertile and have reduced testis size and abnormal morphology. Spermatogonial germ cells are still present but are unable to mature into spermatocytes and spermatids. Exogenous insulin treatment regenerates testes and restores fertility, but this plasma insulin cannot pass through the blood-testis barrier. We conclude that insulin does not rescue fertility through direct interaction with the testis; instead, it restores function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and, thus, normalizes hormone levels of luteinizing hormone and testosterone. Although we show that the Sertoli cells of the testis secrete insulin protein, this insulin does not appear to be critical for fertility.
Among T3 receptors, TRα1 is ubiquitous and its deletion or a specific expression of a dominant-negative TRα1 isoform in Sertoli cell leads to an increase in testis weight and sperm production. The identification of a 43-kDa truncated form of the nuclear receptor TRα1 (p43) in the mitochondrial matrix led us to test the hypothesis that this mitochondrial transcription factor could regulate Sertoli cell proliferation. Here we report that p43 depletion in mice increases testis weight and sperm reserve. In addition, we found that p43 deletion increases Sertoli cell proliferation in postnatal testis at 3 days of development. Electron microscopy studies evidence an alteration of mitochondrial morphology observed specifically in Sertoli cells of p43−/− mice. Moreover, gene expression studies indicate that the lack of p43 in testis induced an alteration of the mitochondrial-nuclear cross-talk. In particular, the up-regulation of Cdk4 and c-myc pathway in p43−/− probably explain the extended proliferation recorded in Sertoli cells of these mice. Our finding suggests that T3 limits post-natal Sertoli cell proliferation mainly through its mitochondrial T3 receptor p43.
CTCF is a highly conserved and essential zinc finger protein expressed in virtually all cell types. In conjunction with cohesin, it organizes chromatin into loops, thereby regulating gene expression and epigenetic events. The function of CTCFL or BORIS, the testis-specific paralog of CTCF, is less clear.
Using immunohistochemistry on testis sections and fluorescence-based microscopy on intact live seminiferous tubules, we show that CTCFL is only transiently present during spermatogenesis, prior to the onset of meiosis, when the protein co-localizes in nuclei with ubiquitously expressed CTCF. CTCFL distribution overlaps completely with that of Stra8, a retinoic acid-inducible protein essential for the propagation of meiosis. We find that absence of CTCFL in mice causes sub-fertility because of a partially penetrant testicular atrophy. CTCFL deficiency affects the expression of a number of testis-specific genes, including Gal3st1 and Prss50. Combined, these data indicate that CTCFL has a unique role in spermatogenesis. Genome-wide RNA expression studies in ES cells expressing a V5- and GFP-tagged form of CTCFL show that genes that are downregulated in CTCFL-deficient testis are upregulated in ES cells. These data indicate that CTCFL is a male germ cell gene regulator. Furthermore, genome-wide DNA-binding analysis shows that CTCFL binds a consensus sequence that is very similar to that of CTCF. However, only ~3,700 out of the ~5,700 CTCFL- and ~31,000 CTCF-binding sites overlap. CTCFL binds promoters with loosely assembled nucleosomes, whereas CTCF favors consensus sites surrounded by phased nucleosomes. Finally, an ES cell-based rescue assay shows that CTCFL is functionally different from CTCF.
Our data suggest that nucleosome composition specifies the genome-wide binding of CTCFL and CTCF. We propose that the transient expression of CTCFL in spermatogonia and preleptotene spermatocytes serves to occupy a subset of promoters and maintain the expression of male germ cell genes.
CTCF; CTCFL; Gametogenesis; Genome-wide binding; Nucleosome
Lymphoid-specific helicase (HELLS; also known as LSH) is a member of the SNF2 family of chromatin remodeling proteins. Because Hells-null mice die at birth, a phenotype in male meiosis cannot be studied in these animals. Allografting of testis tissue from Hells−/− to wild-type mice was employed to study postnatal germ cell differentiation. Testes harvested at Day 18.5 of gestation from Hells−/−, Hells+/−, and Hells+/+ mice were grafted ectopically to immunodeficient mice. Bromodeoxyuridine incorporation at 1 wk postgrafting revealed fewer dividing germ cells in grafts from Hells−/− than from Hells+/+ mice. Whereas spermatogenesis proceeded through meiosis with round spermatids in grafts from Hells heterozygote and wild-type donor testes, spermatogenesis arrested at stage IV, and midpachytene spermatocytes were the most advanced germ cell type in grafts from Hells−/− mice at 4, 6, and 8 wk after grafting. Analysis of meiotic configurations at 22 days posttransplantation revealed an increase in Hells−/− spermatocytes with abnormal chromosome synapsis. These results indicate that in the absence of HELLS, proliferation of spermatogonia is reduced and germ cell differentiation arrested at the midpachytene stage, implicating an essential role for HELLS during male meiosis. This study highlights the utility of testis tissue grafting to study spermatogenesis in animal models that cannot reach sexual maturity.
Lymphoid-specific helicase (HELLS) plays an essential role during meiotic chromosome synapsis in the mouse testis.
chromosomes; developmental biology; HELLS; LSH; meiosis; spermatogenesis; testis; transplantation
There have been increasing attentions on the role of small RNAs, especially microRNAs in post-transcriptional gene regulation during spermatogenesis. MicroRNA-184 (miR-184) has been shown to be mainly expressed in the testis and brain, and that its expression levels are by far the highest in the testis. However, the role of miR-184 in mammalian spermatogenesis remains unclear.
In this study, we demonstrated that miR-184 levels were increased during mouse postnatal testis development. Specifically, miR-184 expression was restricted to the germ cells from spermatogonia to round spermatids. Overexpression of miR-184 promoted the proliferation of a germ cell line, GC-1spg. Moreover, miR-184 downregulated nuclear receptor corepressor 2 (Ncor2) by targeting its 3' untranslated region through inhibiting NCOR2 protein translation.
MiR-184 may be involved in the post-transcription regulation of mRNAs such as Ncor2 in mammalian spermatogenesis.