A male germ-cell-specific ribosome controls male fertility

Nature. 2022 Dec;612(7941):725-731. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-05508-0. Epub 2022 Dec 14.


Ribosomes are highly sophisticated translation machines that have been demonstrated to be heterogeneous in the regulation of protein synthesis1,2. Male germ cell development involves complex translational regulation during sperm formation3. However, it remains unclear whether translation during sperm formation is performed by a specific ribosome. Here we report a ribosome with a specialized nascent polypeptide exit tunnel, RibosomeST, that is assembled with the male germ-cell-specific protein RPL39L, the paralogue of core ribosome (RibosomeCore) protein RPL39. Deletion of RibosomeST in mice causes defective sperm formation, resulting in substantially reduced fertility. Our comparison of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy structures of ribosomes from mouse kidneys and testes indicates that RibosomeST features a ribosomal polypeptide exit tunnel of distinct size and charge states compared with RibosomeCore. RibosomeST predominantly cotranslationally regulates the folding of a subset of male germ-cell-specific proteins that are essential for the formation of sperm. Moreover, we found that specialized functions of RibosomeST were not replaceable by RibosomeCore. Taken together, identification of this sperm-specific ribosome should greatly expand our understanding of ribosome function and tissue-specific regulation of protein expression pattern in mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods
  • Fertility* / physiology
  • Kidney / cytology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Organ Specificity
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Protein Folding
  • Ribosomal Proteins
  • Ribosomes* / metabolism
  • Spermatozoa* / cytology
  • Spermatozoa* / metabolism
  • Testis / cytology


  • Peptides
  • Ribosomal Proteins