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Andrée-Anne Saindon and Pierre Leclerc

Sperm adhesion molecule 1 (SPAM1) is a sperm protein possessing a hyaluronidase domain in its N-terminus and a zona pellucida-binding domain in its C-terminus. Our previous studies showed that bovine spermatozoa potentially have 2 SPAM1 isoforms that present different C-terminal domains, different origins (testis and epididymis) and different locations in spermatozoa. In this study, two approaches were taken to characterize the different SPAM1 isoforms. First, 3′-RACE experiments were done to determine the sequence of the 3′ regions of the potential transcripts. Second, by in silico analyses, we aimed to determine whether our antibody that recognizes the N-terminal domain of SPAM1 detects two SPAM1 isoforms or two highly similar, although different, proteins. We found that the 3′ regions of SPAM1 transcripts from bovine testis and caput epididymis were identical. Nevertheless, two transcript variants that differ by 90 nucleotides, encoded by an entire exon, are expressed in both tissues. Only the protein encoded by the longest SPAM1 transcript variant was confirmed in ejaculated bull spermatozoa by mass spectrometry. In silico analyses revealed a highly similar protein to SPAM1, PH-20, that could potentially be recognized by our N-terminal antibody. The presence of PH-20 transcripts was confirmed in bovine testis and the protein is present in ejaculated spermatozoa. Our N-terminal antibody possibly recognizes both SPAM1 and the highly homologous protein PH-20 instead of two SPAM1 isoforms. Identifying the proteins implicated in the fertilization process is crucial in order to elucidate their roles and to better understand the complex process of fertilization.

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Olivier D'Amours, Louis-Jean Bordeleau, Gilles Frenette, Patrick Blondin, Pierre Leclerc, and Robert Sullivan

Previously, we showed that binder of sperm 1 (BSP1) and epididymal sperm binding protein 1 (ELSPBP1) proteins are more abundant in the immotile bovine sperm subpopulation following cryopreservation. In this study, we investigated the association of BSP1 and ELSPBP1 with sperm in relation to their ability to survive the cryopreservation process. Fresh and cryopreserved semen samples from the same ejaculate collected from nine Holstein bulls were incubated with a fixable viability probe, fixed and permeabilised and then immunolabelled with rabbit anti-BSP1, rabbit anti-ELSPBP1 or rabbit IgG as negative control. Spermatozoa were then incubated with Alexa 488-conjugated secondary antibody and Hoechst 33342. For each sample, 10 000 ‘Hoechst positive’ events were analysed by flow cytometry. Alternatively, sperm populations were obtained by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. In freshly ejaculated live sperm, two distinct BSP1 detection patterns were revealed: a first population where BSP1 is present along the flagellar region (P1 subpopulation) and a second population where BSP1 is localised on both the flagellar and the acrosomal regions (P3 subpopulation). The dead population presented a BSP1 distribution similar to P3 but with a more intense fluorescence signal (P4 subpopulation). In the corresponding cryopreserved samples, all sperm in the P3 subpopulation were dead while only a small proportion of the P1 subpopulation was dead (P2 subpopulation). ELSPBP1 was detected only in dead spermatozoa and in comparable proportions in both freshly ejaculated and cryopreserved semen. These results show that the presence of BSP1 over the acrosomal region characterises spermatozoa sensitive to cryopreservation and that ELSPBP1 characterises spermatozoa that are already dead at ejaculation.

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Yuewen Zhao, Xiaojing Yang, Zongchao Jia, Robert L Reid, Pierre Leclerc, and Frederick W K Kan

The mammalian oviduct synthesizes and secretes a major glycoprotein known as oviductin (OVGP1), which has been shown to interact with gametes and early embryos. Here we report the use of recombinant DNA technology to produce, for the first time, the secretory form of human OVGP1 in HEK293 cells. HEK293 colonies stably expressing recombinant human OVGP1 (rHuOVGP1) were established by transfecting cells with an expression vector pCMV6-Entry constructed with OVGP1 cDNA. Large quantities of rHuOVGP1 were obtained from the stably transfected cells using the CELLSPIN cell cultivation system. A two-step purification system was carried out to yield rHuOVGP1 with a purity of >95%. Upon gel electrophoresis, purified rHuOVGP1 showed a single band corresponding to the 120–150 kDa size range of human OVGP1. Mass spectrometric analysis of the purified rHuOVGP1 revealed its identity as human oviductin. Immunofluorescence showed the binding of rHuOVGP1 to different regions of human sperm cell surfaces in various degrees of intensity. Prior treatment of sperm with 1% Triton X-100 altered the immunostaining pattern of rHuOVGP1 with an intense immunostaining over the equatorial segment and post-acrosomal region as well as along the length of the tail. Addition of rHuOVGP1 in the capacitating medium further enhanced tyrosine phosphorylation of sperm proteins in a time-dependent manner. After 4-h incubation in the presence of rHuOVGP1, the number of acrosome-reacted sperm induced by calcium ionophore significantly increased. The successful production of rHuOVGP1 can now facilitate the study of the role of human OVGP1 in fertilization and early embryo development.

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Olivier D'Amours, Gilles Frenette, Marlène Fortier, Pierre Leclerc, and Robert Sullivan

Intrinsic factors such as proteins modulate the fertilising ability of male gametes. We compared detergent-extracted sperm protein composition of bulls with different fertility indexes in order to highlight putative fertility markers of sperm. Frozen semen from 23 Holstein bulls with documented fertility was used. According to their ‘fertility solution’ (SOL), as calculated by the Canadian dairy network, bulls were divided into four groups: high fertility (HF) (SOL>3.0; n=6), medium-HF (2.9>SOL>2.0; n=5), medium-low fertility (−2.8>SOL>−4.9; n=8) and low fertility (LF; SOL<−5.0; n=4), with a SOL=0 being the average. Triton X-100 protein extracts from ejaculated spermatozoa were subjected to two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis, and polypeptide maps were quantitatively analysed by ImageMaster software. Nine protein spots showed significant differences between the HF and LF groups, and eight of these proteins were identified by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry. T-complex protein 1 subunits ε and θ (CCT5 and CCT8), two isoforms of epididymal sperm-binding protein E12 (ELSPBP1), proteasome subunit α type-6 and binder of sperm 1 (BSP1) were more expressed in the LF group than in the HF group. On the other hand, adenylate kinase isoenzyme 1 (AK1) and phosphatidylethanolamine-binding protein 1 (PEBP1) were more expressed in the HF group than in the LF group. The presence and expression level of ELSPBP1, BSP1, AK1 and PEBP1 were confirmed by western blot. A linear regression model established that CCT5 and AK1 explained 64% (P<0.001) of the fertility scores. The reported functions of these proteins are in agreement with a putative involvement in defective sperm physiology, where lower or higher levels can jeopardise sperm ability to reach and fertilise the oocyte.