The male gamete (sperm) can fertilize an egg, and pass the male genetic information to the offspring. It has long been thought that sperm had a simple protein composition. Efforts have been made to identify the sperm proteome in different species, and only about 1000 proteins were reported. However, with advanced mass spectrometry and an optimized proteomics platform, we successfully identified 4675 human sperm proteins, of which 227 were testis-specific. This large number of identified proteins indicates the complex composition and function of human sperm. Comparison with the sperm transcriptome reveals little overlap, which shows the importance of future studies of sperm at the protein level. Interestingly, many signaling pathways, such as the IL-6, insulin and TGF-beta receptor signaling pathways, were found to be overrepresented. In addition, we found that 500 proteins were annotated as targets of known drugs. Three of four drugs studied were found to affect sperm movement. This in-depth human sperm proteome will be a rich resource for further studies of sperm function, and will provide candidate targets for the development of male contraceptive drugs.
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