Phosphoprotein enriched in astrocytes (PEA-15) is a 15 kDa acidic serine-phosphorylated protein expressed in different cell types, especially in the CN. We initially detected the expression of PEA-15 in primary cultures of Sertoli cells. To assess the presence and localization of PEA-15 in the mouse testis, we studied the expression pattern of the PEA-15 protein by immunohistochemistry and mRNA by in situ hybridization. Both the protein and the mRNA of PEA-15 were localized in the cytoplasm of Sertoli cells, all types of spermatogonia, and spermatocytes up till zygotene phase of the meiotic prophase. Subsequently, with ongoing development of the spermatocytes, the expression decreased and was very low in the cytoplasm of diplotene spermatocytes. To analyze the possible role of PEA-15 in the developing testis, null mutants for PEA-15 were examined. As the PEA-15 C terminus contains residues for ERK binding, we studied possible differences between the localization of the ERK2 protein in wild type (WT) and PEA-15
−/−mice. In the WT testis, ERK2 was localized in the cytoplasm of Sertoli cells, B spermatogonia, preleptotene, leptotene, and zygotene spermatocytes, whereas in the KO testis, ERK2 was primarily localized in the nuclei of these cells and only little staining remained in the cytoplasm. Moreover, in PEA-15-deficient mice, significantly increased numbers of apoptotic spermatocytes were found, indicating an anti-apoptotic role of PEA-15 during the meiotic prophase. The increased numbers of apoptotic spermatocytes were not found at a specific step in the meiotic prophase.