The small heat shock protein ODF1/HSPB10 is essential for tight linkage of sperm head to tail and male fertility in mice

Mol Cell Biol. 2012 Jan;32(1):216-25. doi: 10.1128/MCB.06158-11. Epub 2011 Oct 28.


Sperm motility and hence male fertility strictly depends on proper development of the sperm tail and its tight anchorage to the head. The main protein of sperm tail outer dense fibers, ODF1/HSPB10, belongs to the family of small heat shock proteins that function as molecular chaperones. However, the impact of ODF1 on sperm tail formation and motility and on male fecundity is unknown. We therefore generated mutant mice in which the Odf1 gene was disrupted. Heterozygous mutant male mice are fertile while sperm motility is reduced, but Odf1-deficient male mice are infertile due to the detachment of the sperm head. Although headless tails are somehow motile, transmission electron microscopy revealed disturbed organization of the mitochondrial sheath, as well as of the outer dense fibers. Our results thus suggest that ODF1, besides being involved in the correct arrangement of mitochondrial sheath and outer dense fibers, is essential for rigid junction of sperm head and tail. Loss of function of ODF1, therefore, might account for some of the cases of human infertility with decapitated sperm heads. In addition, since sperm motility is already affected in heterozygous mice, impairment of ODF1 might even account for some cases of reduced fertility in male patients.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Fertility
  • Gene Deletion
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Sperm Head / metabolism*
  • Sperm Motility
  • Sperm Tail / metabolism*
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Spermatozoa / cytology*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • Spermatozoa / ultrastructure


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Odf1 protein, mouse