Alterations in the properties of sperm protamine-like II protein after exposure of Mytilus galloprovincialis (Lamarck 1819) to sub-toxic doses of cadmium

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2019 Mar:169:600-606. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.11.069. Epub 2018 Nov 26.


Protamine-like proteins (PL-II, PL-III and PL-IV) represent the major basic nuclear component of Mytilus galloprovincialis L sperm chromatin. The present study investigates the effects induced on the properties of PL-II protein after exposure of Mytilus galloprovincialis L for 24 h to 1.5 and 5 µM CdCl2. We found cadmium accumulation in protamine-like proteins with a linear grow up with the exposition dose. In particular, after 5 µM CdCl2 mussels exposure, the mobility of PL-II band changed in SDS-PAGE, suggesting structural rearrangement in presence of cadmium. Structural analysis using fluorescent probes, indicated that at 5 µM CdCl2 the complete conformational change of PL-II protein was reached. In the same condition of mussels exposure of 5 µM CdCl2, PL-II protein changed its DNA binding mode, which determined a closer DNA binding, because higher amount of NaCl were required for PL-II protein release by sperm nuclei. These results supported the hypothesis that mussel exposure to this CdCl2 dose, although lower to toxic ones, affects the properties of this protein and as a consequence chromatin organization of spermatozoa that is essential for the success of fertilization.

Keywords: Cadmium; Metal bioaccumulation; Metal pollution; Mytilus galloprovincialis L.; Protamine-like proteins; Sperm chromatin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Male
  • Mytilus / drug effects*
  • Nuclear Proteins / chemistry
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Cadmium
  • PL-II protein, Mytilus