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J Struct Biol. 2002 Oct-Dec;140(1-3):279-90.

Patterns of importin-alpha expression during Drosophila spermatogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Developmental Genetics, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, Heidelberg, Germany.


Importin-alpha proteins do not only mediate the nuclear import of karyophilic proteins but also regulate spindle assembly during mitosis and the assembly of ring canals during Drosophila oogenesis. Three importin-alpha genes are present in the genome of Drosophila. To gain further insights into their function we analysed their expression during spermatogenesis by using antibodies raised against each of the three Importin-alpha proteins identified in Drosophila, namely, Imp-alpha1, -alpha2, and -alpha3. We found that each Imp-alpha is expressed during a specific and limited period of spermatogenesis. Strong expression of Imp-alpha2 takes place in spermatogonial cells, persists in spermatocytes, and lasts up to the completion of meiosis. In growing spermatocytes, the intracellular localisation of Imp-alpha2 appears to be dependent upon the rate of cell growth. In pupal testes Imp-alpha2 is essentially present in the spermatocyte nucleus but is localised in the cytoplasm of spermatocytes from adult testes. Both Imp-alpha1 and -alpha3 expression initiates at the beginning of meiosis and ends during spermatid differentiation. Imp-alpha1 expression extends up to the onset of the elongation phase, whereas that of Imp-alpha3 persists up to the completion of nuclear condensation when the spermatids become individualised. During meiosis Imp-alpha1 and -alpha3 are dispersed in the karyoplasm where they are partially associated with the nuclear spindle, albeit not with the asters. At telophase they aggregate around the chromatin. During sperm head differentiation, both Imp-alpha1 and -alpha3 are nuclear. These data indicate that each Imp-alpha protein carries during Drosophila spermatogenesis distinct, albeit overlapping, functions that may involve nuclear import of proteins, microtubule organisation, and other yet unknown processes.

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