Region-specific gene expression in the epididymis

Cell Tissue Res. 2012 Sep;349(3):717-31. doi: 10.1007/s00441-012-1381-0. Epub 2012 Mar 18.


The epididymis is responsible for post-testicular sperm maturation, which consists in the acquisition of forward motility and fertilizing ability. This organ is composed of three main anatomical regions - the caput, corpus and cauda epididymidis - which possess distinct gene expression profiles, ensuring different epididymal functions essential to the different steps of sperm maturation. Since many genes display spatially restricted expression in the epididymis, this organ constitutes a model of choice to study the mechanisms that govern region-specific gene expression. Factors such as steroid hormones, lumicrine factors and temperature affect the pattern of gene expression in the epididymis. Recently, the contribution of small RNAs in epididymal gene regulation has been investigated and constitutes a promising avenue for clinical application with regard to male fertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epididymis / metabolism
  • Epididymis / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sperm Maturation / genetics
  • Sperm Maturation / physiology*