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Biol Reprod. 1995 Dec;53(6):1330-8.

Multiple transcripts encoding heme oxygenase-2 in rat testis: developmental and cell-specific regulation of transcripts and protein.

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Department of Biophysics, University of Rochester School of Medicine, New York 14642, USA.


We report for the first time that heme oxygenase-2 (HO-2) expression is regulated by developmental and cell type-specific factors in the testis, and we describe the presence of three unique sizes of HO-2 transcripts in the testis. HO-2, together with HO-1 (HSP32), catalyzes oxidative cleavage of the heme molecule to biliverdin, carbon monoxide, and iron; HO-2 is the major isozyme of the testis. Northern blot analysis was used to demonstrate the presence of five transcripts for HO-2 in rat testis mRNA; they range from approximately 1.3 to approximately 2.1 kg in length with a predominant 1.45-kb message; three of the transcripts, approximately 1.45 kb, approximately 1.7 kb, and approximately 2.1 kg, are unique to testis. The two other transcripts of approximately 1.3 and approximately 1.9 kb are common to every tissue examined, including the testis. Analysis of three distinct cDNAs isolated from rat libraries in phage lambda indicates that all are identical from -37, relative to translation initiation through the coding region to the first of two poly(A) signals previously identified in the HO-2 gene (McCoubrey and Maines, 1994). Upstream of -37, the 5' untranslated sequences of the isolates differ in both length and sequence. Comparison with the genomic sequence suggests that the multiple transcripts arise by splicing of alternative first exons as well as use of alternate poly(A) signals. Northern hybridization with probes specific for the unique portion of each cDNA are consistent with this interpretation. Further, unlike HO-1, HO-2 messages are developmentally regulated; only approximately 1.3- and approximately 1.9-kb transcripts were detected, at minute levels, in the testis RNA of 7-day-old rats. A pronounced increase in total message level was observed by Day 28 postpartum, although the level had not reached the marked amplification seen in the adult testis. Further, the transcript patterns differed when Day 28 and adult testis were compared to Day 7 testis. The very predominant approximately 1.45-kb band and the approximately 1.7- and 2.1-kb bands were absent from Day 7 testis. Heme oxygenase activity and HO-2 protein levels, as assessed by Western blot, reflect the increases at the RNA level. Interestingly, although abundant HO-2 mRNA can be detected by in situ hybridization in spermatogonia, spermatocytes, and spermatids, HO-2 protein was detected, by immunocytochemistry, only in spermatids. These observations demonstrate tissue and cell specificity of HO-2 gene expression and suggest that in the testis, HO-2 expression is regulated at the transcriptional and translational levels.

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