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Wei Guo, Fei Qu, Li Xia, Qiangsu Guo, Xiaoqian Ying, and Zhide Ding

The mammalian epididymis is able to create sequential changes in the composition of luminal fluid throughout its length, wherein spermatozoa undergo morphological, biochemical, and physiological modifications. Subsequently, spermatozoa acquire the ability for fertilization upon reaching the epididymal cauda. In this study, protein variations in Sprague–Dawley rat spermatozoa along the caput and caudal regions of epididymis were investigated by high-resolution two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2DE) in combination with mass spectrometry. From total protein spots on the 2DE maps, 43 spots were shown to be significantly modified as sperm traverse the epididymis, and seven unambiguous proteins were identified from them. Finally, using indirect immunofluorescence, we demonstrated that localization of one of these seven proteins, the endoplasmic reticulum protein (ERp29) precursor, which was first reported in mammalian spermatozoa, was apparently up-regulated as the sperm underwent epididymal maturation and expressed mainly on caudal sperm. Western blot analysis also revealed that ERp29 precursor, from both whole spermatozoa and membrane proteins, increased significantly as the sperm underwent epididymal maturation. Furthermore, the results from immunofluorescence-stained epididymal frozen sections demonstrated that ERp29 was localized in cytoplasm of epididymal epithelia, and the fluorescence intensity was significantly higher in the caudal epididymis than in the caput. These clues indicated that the ERp29 precursor, perhaps related to secretory protein synthesis and absorbed by spermatozoa, may play a vital role in sperm maturation during the epididymal transit, particularly, in the sperm/organelle membrane.

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Fei Qu, Xiaoqian Ying, Wei Guo, Qiangsu Guo, Guowu Chen, Yue Liu, and Zhide Ding

Sperm motility is essential for male reproduction or natural fertilization. The cyclic AMP (cAMP)/cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) signaling pathway is generally recognized as one of the significant signaling pathways in the regulation of mammalian spermatozoan motility. Since Zn-α2-glycoprotein (ZAG) activity in mammalian adipose tissue is mediated via the β3-adrenoreceptor, with upregulation of the cAMP pathway, we hypothesize that ZAG may play the same role in sperm motility regulation, a new factor of regulation of sperm motility. Therefore, the gene encoding human ZAG was cloned and polyclonal antibodies were generated, and then laser scanning confocal microscopy and flow cytometry were employed to identify this protein in human spermatozoa. The results showed that ZAG protein was mostly localized on the pre-equatorial region covering the acrosome, neck, and middle piece of the flagellum of spermatozoa. Furthermore, using computer-assisted sperm analysis, we found that anti-human ZAG antibodies could significantly reduce the motility of human swim-up spermatozoa after 90- or 120-min incubation (P<0.05 and P<0.01 respectively), together with the decreasing of intracellular cAMP and PKA levels. In conclusion, these data suggest that ZAG is present in human spermatozoa and may be involved in the regulation of sperm motility via the cAMP/PKA signaling pathway.

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Zhoufei Mao, Liuhong Yang, Xiaosheng Lu, Anni Tan, Yuxia Wang, Fei Ding, Luanjuan Xiao, Xufeng Qi, and Yanhong Yu

C1q/tumor necrosis factor-related protein 3 (C1QTNF3) is a novel adipokine with modulating effects on metabolism, inflammation and the cardiovascular system. C1QTNF3 expression levels in the sera and omental adipose tissues of women with PCOS are low compared to control subjects. However, the expression and function of C1QTNF3 in the ovary has not previously been examined. Here, we assessed the expression patterns of C1qtnf3 in the ovary and explored its role in folliculogenesis. The C1qtnf3 transcript abundance was higher in large follicles than in small follicles and was under the influence of gonadotropin. C1QTNF3 was detected mainly in the granulosa cells and oocytes of growing follicles and modestly in the granulosa cells of atretic follicles and in luteal cells. Excess androgen significantly decreased C1QTNF3 expression in the ovaries in vivo and in granulosa cells in vitro. Recombinant C1QTNF3 protein accelerated the weight gain of ovarian explants and the growth of preantral follicles induced by follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in vitro. The stimulatory effect of C1QTNF3 on ovarian growth was accompanied by the initiation of AKT, mTOR, p70S6K and 4EBP1 phosphorylation, an increase in CCND2 expression and a reduction in cleaved CASP3 levels. Moreover, the addition of C1QTNF3 accelerated proliferation and reduced activated CASP3/7 activity in granulosa cells. In vivo, the ovarian intrabursal administration of the C1QTNF3 antibody delayed gonadotropin-induced antral follicle development. Taken together, our data demonstrate that C1QTNF3 is an intraovarian factor that promotes follicle growth by accelerating proliferation, decelerating apoptosis and promoting AKT/mTOR phosphorylation.