Understanding mammalian spermatozoan development and the events surrounding fertilization has grown slowly, in part because of uncertainty about the number and identity of the cellular components involved. Determination of those transcripts expressed specifically by germ cells should provide an inclusive list of probable critical proteins. Here, total mouse testis transcript profiles were trimmed of transcripts found in cultures enriched in Sertoli or interstitial cells to yield a germ cell-enriched transcript profile. Monitoring of changes of this profile in the developing testis identified 1,652 genes whose transcript abundance increased markedly coincident with the onset of meiosis. Remarkably, 351 of these genes (≈20%) appear to be expressed only in the male germline. Germ cell-specific transcripts are much less common earlier in testis development. Further analysis of the UniGene EST database coupled with quantitative PCR indicates that ≈4% of the mouse genome is dedicated to expression in postmeiotic male germ cells. Most or many of the protein products of these transcripts are probably retained in mature spermatozoa. Targeted disruption of 19 of these genes has indicated that a majority have roles critical for normal fertility. Thus, we find an astonishing number of genes expressed specifically by male germ cells late in development. This extensive group provides a plethora of potential targets for germ cell-directed contraception and a staggering number of candidate proteins that could be critical for fertilization.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Oct 14 2003|
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