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J Biol Chem. 2007 Nov 9;282(45):32912-23. Epub 2007 Sep 13.

Oligomerization and transglutaminase cross-linking of the cystatin CRES in the mouse epididymal lumen: potential mechanism of extracellular quality control.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 3601 4th Street, Lubbock, TX 79430, USA.


CRES (cystatin-related epididymal spermatogenic), a member of the cystatin superfamily of cysteine protease inhibitors, is expressed in the epididymis and spermatozoa, suggesting specialized roles in reproduction. Several cystatin family members oligomerize, including cystatin C that forms amyloid deposits associated with cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Our studies demonstrate that CRES also forms oligomers. Size exclusion chromatography revealed the presence of multiple forms of CRES in the epididymal luminal fluid, including SDS-sensitive and SDS-resistant high molecular mass complexes. In vitro experiments demonstrated that CRES is a substrate for transglutaminase and that an endogenous transglutaminase activity in the epididymal lumen catalyzed the formation of SDS-resistant CRES complexes. The use of a conformation-dependent antibody that recognizes only the oligomeric precursors to amyloid, negative stain electron microscopy, and Congo Red staining showed that CRES adopted similar oligomeric and fibrillar structures during its aggregation as other amyloidogenic proteins, suggesting that CRES has the potential to form amyloid in the epididymal lumen. The addition of transglutaminase, however, prevented the formation of CRES oligomers recognized by the conformation antibody by cross-linking CRES into an amorphous structure. We propose that transglutaminase activity in the epididymal lumen may function as a mechanism of extracellular quality control by diverting proteins such as CRES from the amyloidogenic pathway.

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