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Biol Reprod. 2015 Mar;92(3):65. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.114.124495. Epub 2015 Jan 7.

Targeted disruption of glycogen synthase kinase 3A (GSK3A) in mice affects sperm motility resulting in male infertility.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.
Laboratory of Cancer Epigenomics, Center for Epigenetics, Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Department of Integrative Biology, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado.
Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio


The signaling enzyme glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) exists as two isoforms-GSK3A and GSK3B. Protein phosphorylation by GSK3 has important signaling roles in several cells. In our past work, we found that both isoforms of GSK3 are present in mouse sperm and that catalytic GSK3 activity correlates with motility of sperm from several species. Here, we examined the role of Gsk3a in male fertility using a targeted gene knockout (KO) approach. The mutant mice are viable, but have a male infertility phenotype, while female fertility is unaffected. Testis weights of Gsk3a(-/-) mice are normal and sperm are produced in normal numbers. Although spermatogenesis is apparently unimpaired, sperm motility parameters in vitro are impaired. In addition, the flagellar waveform appears abnormal, characterized by low amplitude of flagellar beat. Sperm ATP levels were lower in Gsk3a(-/-) mice compared to wild-type animals. Protein phosphatase PP1 gamma2 protein levels were unaltered, but its catalytic activity was elevated in KO sperm. Remarkably, tyrosine phosphorylation of hexokinase and capacitation-associated changes in tyrosine phosphorylation of proteins are absent or significantly lower in Gsk3a(-/-) sperm. The GSK3B isoform was present and unaltered in testis and sperm of Gsk3a(-/-) mice, showing the inability of GSK3B to substitute for GSK3A in this context. Our studies show that sperm GSK3A is essential for male fertility. In addition, the GSK3A isoform, with its highly conserved glycine-rich N terminus in mammals, may have an isoform-specific role in its requirement for normal sperm motility and fertility.


glycogen synthase kinase 3a; male infertility; sperm capacitation; sperm motility; tyrosine phosphorylation

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