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Volume 9, Issue 4 (July 2007) 9, 528–532; 10.1111/j.1745-7262.2007.00283.x

Participation of epididymal cysteine-rich secretory proteins in sperm-egg fusion and their potential use for male fertility regulation

Debora J Cohen, Vanina G Da Ros, Dolores Busso, Diego A Ellerman, Julieta A Maldera, Nadia Goldweic and Patricia S Cuasnicú

Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine, Vuelta de Obligado 2490, Buenos Aires 1428, Argentina

Correspondence: Dr Patricia S. Cuasnicú, Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine, Vuelta de Obligado 2490, Buenos Aires 1428, Argentina. Fax: +54-11-4786-2564. E-mail: cuasnicu@dna.uba.ar


Rat protein DE is an androgen-dependent cysteine-rich secretory protein (CRISP) synthesized by proximal epididymal regions. DE, also known as CRISP-1, is localized on the equatorial segment of acrosome-reacted spermatozoa and participates in gamete fusion through binding to egg complementary sites. Immunization of rats with DE inhibits fertility and sperm fusion ability, suggesting that DE represents a good epididymal contraceptive target. Recombinant DE fragments and synthetic peptides revealed that DE binds to the egg via a 12-amino acid region of an evolutionarily conserved motif, Signature 2 (S2). The ability of other CRISP to bind to the rat egg was correlated with their S2 amino acid sequences. Although testicular protein Tpx-1 (CRISP-2) was capable of binding to rodent eggs, human epididymal AEG-related protein (ARP) and helothermine (from lizard saliva) were not. The S2 region presented only two substitutions in Tpx-1 and four in ARP and helothermine, compared with the DE S2, suggesting that this amino acid sequence was relevant for egg interaction. Studies with Tpx-1 and anti-Tpx-1 revealed the participation of this protein in gamete fusion through binding to complementary sites in the egg. In competition studies, DE reduced binding of Tpx-1 dose-dependently, indicating that both CRISP share the egg complementary sites. That anti-DE and anti-Tpx-1 inhibit sperm-egg fusion while recognizing only the corresponding proteins, suggests functional cooperation between these homologous CRISP to ensure fertilization success. These results increase our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of gamete fusion and contribute to the development of new and safer fertility regulating methods.

Keywords: contraception, cysteine-rich secretory protein, epididymis, gamete fusion, sperm

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