Background: We previously cloned the Ssp411 gene. We found that the Ssp411 protein is predominantly expressed in elongated spermatids in the rat testis in a stage-dependent manner. Although our findings strongly suggested that Ssp411 might play an important role in mammalian spermatogenesis, this hypothesis has not been studied.
Methods: We first used real-time PCR, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry to confirm that the expression pattern of Ssp411 in several murine tissues is similar to its expression pattern in corresponding rat tissues. To better understand the roles of Ssp411 in male reproduction in vivo, we identified and characterized an Ssp411 expression-disrupted murine strain (Ssp411PB/PB) that was generated by piggyBac (PB) transposon insertion. We studied Ssp411-interacting proteins using proteome microarray, co-IP and GST pull-down assay.
Results: Both Ssp411 mRNA and protein were detected exclusively in spermatids after step 9 during spermiogenesis in testis. Phenotypic analysis suggested that only Ssp411PB/PB males are sterile. These males have smaller testes, reduced sperm counts, decreased sperm motility and deformed spermatozoa. Microscopy analysis indicated that the manchette, a structurally reshaped sperm head, is aberrant in Ssp411PB/PB spermatids. The results of proteome microarray analysis and GST pull-down assays suggested that Ssp411 participates the ubiquitin-proteasome system by interacting with PSMC3. This has been reported to be manchette-associated and important for the head shaping of spermatids.
Conclusions: Our study suggested that Ssp411 is required for spermiogenesis. It seems to play a role in sperm head shaping. The lack of Ssp411 causes sperm deformation and results in male infertility.
General significance: Ssp411PB/PB mouse strain is an animal model of idiopathic oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (iOAT), and the gene may represent a therapeutic target for iOAT patients.
Keywords: Male sterility; Manchette; Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia; Spermiogenesis; Ssp411.
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