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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Glycosylation of rat sperm plasma membrane during epididymal maturation.

Spermatozoa acquire fertilizing ability during passage through the epididymis. Modification of oligosaccharide moieties on sperm surface glycoproteins are some of the biochemical changes believed to be important in the production of functionally mature spermatozoa during passage through the epididymis. In an attempt to understand the mechanism underlying these modifications, we quantified four glycosyltransferase activities (the enzymes that catalyze the transfer of sugar residues from nucleotide sugar donor to the sugar chains on glycoproteins and glycolipids) of spermatozoa and fluid from various regions of the epididymis. Our results are as follows. (1) Only 10-20% of the total glycosyltransferase activities (sialyltransferase, fucosyltransferase, galactosyltransferase, and N-acetyl glucosaminyltransferase) sedimented with the spermatozoa; the remaining 80-90% of the four enzymes were present in soluble form in the epididymal fluid. (2) When the four transferase activities were expressed per 10(6) spermatozoa, only sialyltransferase and fucosyltransferase activities showed maturation-dependent changes. The former enzyme was significantly higher on the proximal caput spermatozoa and the latter on the distal caput spermatozoa. The higher levels of the two enzymes on caput spermatozoa could be due to their binding to the endogenous sugar acceptor molecules on the sperm surface, and subsequent release following sequential sialylation and fucosylation of the molecules in the proximal and distal caput spermatozoa, respectively. (3) When spermatozoa from the proximal and distal caput, corpus, and proximal and distal cauda were incubated with fucose-labeled nucleotide sugar (GDP[14C]fucose), higher levels of radioactivity were routinely incorporated into the spermatozoa from the distal caput. (4) The [14C]fucose-labeled spermatozoa or sperm plasma membranes, when solubilized, resolved on SDS-PAGE, and visualized by autoradiography, showed that the radioactivity had been incorporated into an endogenous acceptor of 86 kDa (major component) and several minor components. Treatment of the solubilized spermatozoa with N-glycanase suggested that the [14C]fucose is mainly present on N-linked oligosaccharide units. These studies demonstrate that some of the sperm surface components are fucosylated during sperm maturation. The potential significance of the in vitro fucosylation of sperm surface components in the production of functionally mature spermatozoa is discussed.[1]


  1. Glycosylation of rat sperm plasma membrane during epididymal maturation. Tulsiani, D.R., Skudlarek, M.D., Holland, M.K., Orgebin-Crist, M.C. Biol. Reprod. (1993) [Pubmed]
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