Testis/sperm-specific histone 2B in the sperm of donors and subfertile patients: variability and relation to chromatin packaging

Hum Reprod. 2007 Mar;22(3):743-50. doi: 10.1093/humrep/del439. Epub 2006 Nov 16.


Background: The compaction of human sperm chromatin is the result of replacement of approximately 85% of histones with protamines. Germ-line testis/sperm-specific histone 2B (TSH2B) has been detected in only approximately 30% of mature spermatozoa. Its level in the semen of subfertile patients varies; its function is unknown. We evaluated TSH2B in the sperm samples of 23 donors and 49 subfertile patients and assessed its association with chromatin compaction status.

Methods: TSH2B level was measured using immunoblotting. Chromatin packaging quality was evaluated by staining with chromomycin A3 (CMA3) which marked spermatozoa with defective packaging. To assess both TSH2B and chromatin status in the same spermatozoon, CMA3 staining and TSH2B immunolocalization were performed sequentially.

Results: A significant correlation (r = 0.55, P = 0.0027) was found between TSH2B level and percentage of CMA3-positive sperm in patient and donor semen samples. When individual spermatozoa were assessed for these parameters, 92% of TSH2B-containing cells were also CMA3 positive. Variation in the total sperm TSH2B level was less in donors than in patients.

Conclusions: CMA3 positive staining of TSH2B-containing individual spermatozoa and a significant correlation between the total TSH2B level and CMA3 percentage in semen samples suggest a structural role for TSH2B in sperm chromatin organization. Low variability of TSH2B level in donors implies a mechanism (however unknown) regulating this parameter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly / physiology*
  • Chromomycin A3
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Histones / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Protamines / metabolism
  • Semen / chemistry
  • Spermatozoa / chemistry*
  • Testis / chemistry*
  • Tissue Donors


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Protamines
  • Chromomycin A3