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J Lipid Res. 2011 Dec;52(12):2187-97. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M019661. Epub 2011 Oct 2.

Arylsulfatase A deficiency causes seminolipid accumulation and a lysosomal storage disorder in Sertoli cells.

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  • 1Chronic Diseases Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, ON, Canada.


Sulfogalactosylglycerolipid (SGG) is the major sulfoglycolipid of male germ cells. During spermatogenesis, apoptosis occurs in >50% of total germ cells. Sertoli cells phagocytose these apoptotic germ cells and degrade their components using lysosomal enzymes. Here we demonstrated that SGG was a physiological substrate of Sertoli lysosomal arylsulfatase A (ARSA). SGG accumulated in Sertoli cells of Arsa(-/-) mice, and at 8 months of age, this buildup led to lysosomal swelling and other cellular abnormalities typical of a lysosomal storage disorder. This disorder likely compromised Sertoli cell functions, manifesting as impaired spermatogenesis and production of sperm with near-zero fertilizing ability in vitro. Fecundity of Arsa(-/-) males was thus reduced when they were older than 5 months. Sperm SGG is known for its roles in fertilization. Therefore, the minimal sperm fertilizing ability of 8-month-old Arsa(-/-) males may be explained by the 50% reduction of their sperm SGG levels, a result that was also observed in testicular germ cells. These unexpected decreases in SGG levels might be partly due to depletion of the backbone lipid palmitylpalmitoylglycerol that is generated from the SGG degradation pathway in Sertoli cells and normally recycled to new generations of primary spermatocytes for SGG synthesis.

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