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Nat Genet. 1999 Jun;22(2):171-4.

A double-stranded RNA binding protein required for activation of repressed messages in mammalian germ cells.

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Department of Genetics, University of Washington, Seattle 98195, USA.


Chromatin packaging in mammalian spermatozoa requires an ordered replacement of the somatic histones by two classes of spermatid-specific basic proteins, the transition proteins and the protamines. Temporal expression of transition proteins and protamines during spermatid differentiation is under translational control, and premature translation of protamine 1 leads to precocious nuclear condensation and sterility. We have previously suggested that the double-stranded (ds) RNA binding protein Prbp (encoded by the gene Tarbp2) functions as a translational regulator during mouse spermatogenesis. Here we show that Prbp is required for proper translational activation of the mRNAs encoding the protamines. We generated mice that carry a targeted disruption of Tarbp2 and determined that they were sterile and severely oligospermic. Using immunohistological analysis, we determined that the endogenous Prm2 mRNA and a reporter mRNA carrying protamine 1 translational-control elements were translated in a mosaic pattern. We showed that failure to synthesize the protamines resulted in delayed replacement of the transition proteins and subsequent failure of spermiation. The timing of Prbp expression suggests that it may function as a chaperone in the assembly of specific translationally regulated ribonucleoprotein particles.

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