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Development. 2005 Jun;132(12):2795-808.

The Caenorhabditis elegans spe-38 gene encodes a novel four-pass integral membrane protein required for sperm function at fertilization.

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  • 1Waksman Institute and Department of Genetics, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


A mutation in the Caenorhabditis elegans spe-38 gene results in a sperm-specific fertility defect. spe-38 sperm are indistinguishable from wild-type sperm with regards to their morphology, motility and migratory behavior. spe-38 sperm make close contact with oocytes but fail to fertilize them. spe-38 sperm can also stimulate ovulation and engage in sperm competition. The spe-38 gene is predicted to encode a novel four-pass (tetraspan) integral membrane protein. Structurally similar tetraspan molecules have been implicated in processes such as gamete adhesion/fusion in mammals, membrane adhesion/fusion during yeast mating, and the formation/function of tight-junctions in metazoa. In antibody localization experiments, SPE-38 was found to concentrate on the pseudopod of mature sperm, consistent with it playing a direct role in gamete interactions.

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