Interacting proteins on human spermatozoa: adaptive evolution of the binding of semenogelin I to EPPIN

PLoS One. 2013 Dec 2;8(12):e82014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082014. eCollection 2013.


Semenogelin I (SEMG1) is found in human semen coagulum and on the surface of spermatozoa bound to EPPIN. The physiological significance of the SEMG1/EPPIN interaction on the surface of spermatozoa is its capacity to modulate sperm progressive motility. The present study investigates the hypothesis that the interacting surface of SEMG1 and EPPIN co-evolved within the Hominoidea time scale, as a result of adaptive pressures applied by their roles in sperm protection and reproductive fitness. Our results indicate that some amino acid residues of SEMG1 and EPPIN possess a remarkable deficiency of variation among hominoid primates. We observe a distinct residue change unique to humans within the EPPIN sequence containing a SEMG1 interacting surface, namely His92. In addition, Bayes Empirical Bayes analysis for positive selection indicates that the SEMG1 Cys239 residue underwent positive selection in humans, probably as a consequence of its role in increasing the binding affinity of these interacting proteins. We confirm the critical role of Cys239 residue for SEMG1 binding to EPPIN and inhibition of sperm motility by showing that recombinant SEMG1 mutants in which Cys239 residue was changed to glycine, aspartic acid, histidine, serine or arginine have reduced capacity to interact to EPPIN and to inhibit human sperm motility in vitro. In conclusion, our results indicate that EPPIN and SEMG1 rapidly co-evolved in primates due to their critical role in the modulation of sperm motility in the semen coagulum, providing unique insights into the molecular co-evolution of sperm surface interacting proteins.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Peptide Fragments / genetics
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Proteinase Inhibitory Proteins, Secretory / metabolism*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Seminal Vesicle Secretory Proteins / chemistry
  • Seminal Vesicle Secretory Proteins / genetics
  • Seminal Vesicle Secretory Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sperm Motility
  • Spermatozoa / cytology
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*


  • Eppin protein, human
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Proteinase Inhibitory Proteins, Secretory
  • Seminal Vesicle Secretory Proteins
  • seminal vesicle-specific antigen