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Mol Reprod Dev. 1996 Nov;45(3):320-31.

Developmental expression, intracellular localization, and selenium content of the cysteine-rich protein associated with the mitochondrial capsules of mouse sperm.

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Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, Boston 02125, USA.


The outer membranes of mitochondria of mammalian sperm are encased in a keratinous structure known as the mitochondrial capsule. The experiments in the present study were designed to resolve a controversy surrounding the intracellular localization, developmental expression, and selenium-content of a cysteine-rich 17-20 kD protein that has been reported to constitute the major structural protein in the mitochondrial capsule of mammals. An antibody to a synthetic oligopeptide based on the predicted sequence of mouse cysteinerich protein recognizes a 24 kD protein in epididymal sperm tails of mice. The 24 kD protein does not appear to be a selenoprotein because: (1) it is not labeled with 75Se-selenite in seminiferous tubule culture; (2) cleavage with cyanogen bromide and translation of T7 RNA polymerase transcripts in vitro indicate that the translation start site is located downstream of potential UGA selenocysteine codons in the mouse cysteine-rich mRNA; (3) the reading frame encoding the cysteine-rich protein in rat lacks inphase UGA selenocysteine codons. Light and electron microscopy immunocytochemistry detects the cysteine-rich protein first during step 11 of spermiogenesis in the mouse demonstrating that the cysteine-rich protein mRNA is under temporal translational control. Electron microscope immunocytochemistry reveals that the cysteine-rich protein is evenly distributed in the cytoplasm in spermatids in steps 11 through early step 16 in mouse, and that it is associated with the outer mitochondrial membranes of spermatids in late step 16 and epididymal spermatozoa.

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