The testis' function is to produce haploid germ cells necessary for reproduction. Here we have combined a genome-wide transcriptomics analysis with immunohistochemistry-based protein profiling to characterize the molecular components of the testis. Deep sequencing (RNA-Seq) of normal human testicular tissue from seven individuals was performed and compared with 26 other normal human tissue types. All 20 050 putative human genes were classified into categories based on expression patterns. The analysis shows that testis is the tissue with the most tissue-specific genes by far. More than 1000 genes show a testis-enriched expression pattern in testis when compared with all other analyzed tissues. Highly testis enriched genes were further characterized with respect to protein localization within the testis, such as spermatogonia, spermatocytes, spermatids, sperm, Sertoli cells and Leydig cells. Here we present an immunohistochemistry-based analysis, showing the localization of corresponding proteins in different cell types and various stages of spermatogenesis, for 62 genes expressed at >50-fold higher levels in testis when compared with other tissues. A large fraction of these genes were unexpectedly expressed in early stages of spermatogenesis. In conclusion, we have applied a genome-wide analysis to identify the human testis-specific proteome using transcriptomics and antibody-based protein profiling, providing lists of genes expressed in a tissue-enriched manner in the testis. The majority of these genes and proteins were previously poorly characterised in terms of localization and function, and our list provides an important starting point to increase our molecular understanding of human reproductive biology and disease.
Keywords: RNA sequencing; immunohistochemistry; spermatogenesis; testis; tissue specificity.
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