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Mol Cell Biol. 2002 Dec;22(24):8478-90.

Expression of a novel, sterol-insensitive form of sterol regulatory element binding protein 2 (SREBP2) in male germ cells suggests important cell- and stage-specific functions for SREBP targets during spermatogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01655, USA.


Cholesterol biosynthesis in somatic cells is controlled at the transcriptional level by a homeostatic feedback pathway involving sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs). These basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH)-Zip proteins are synthesized as membrane-bound precursors, which are cleaved to form a soluble, transcriptionally active mature SREBP that regulates the promoters for genes involved in lipid synthesis. Homeostasis is conferred by sterol feedback inhibition of this maturation process. Previous work has demonstrated the expression of SREBP target genes in the male germ line, several of which are highly up-regulated during specific developmental stages. However, the role of SREBPs in the control of sterol regulatory element-containing promoters during spermatogenesis has been unclear. In particular, expression of several of these genes in male germ cells appears to be insensitive to sterols, contrary to SREBP-dependent gene regulation in somatic cells. Here, we have characterized a novel isoform of the transcription factor SREBP2, which is highly enriched in rat and mouse spermatogenic cells. This protein, SREBP2gc, is expressed in a stage-dependent fashion as a soluble, constitutively active transcription factor that is not subject to feedback control by sterols. These findings likely explain the apparent sterol-insensitive expression of lipid synthesis genes during spermatogenesis. Expression of a sterol-independent, constitutively active SREBP2gc in the male germ line may have arisen as a means to regulate SREBP target genes in specific developmental stages. This may reflect unique roles for cholesterol synthesis and other functional targets of SREBPs during spermatogenesis.

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