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Adv Exp Med Biol. 1997;424:193-219.

The role of apocrine released proteins in the post-testicular regulation of human sperm function.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Philipps-Universität, Marburg, Germany.


A unifying hypothesis is presented postulating an apocrine release of several seminal proteins which mix and reaggregate in seminal fluid, thereby eventually forming particles designated either as "prostasomes", "vesiculosomes" or "seminosomes". The term "aposomes" should be restricted to the blebs released from secretory cells in the rat dorsal prostate and coagulating gland. Three different proteins present in human seminosomes along with the respective antibodies have been used to identify the localization, function and hypothetical interaction with spermatozoa. The proteins were (1) seminal vesicle-derived fibronectin, (2) prostate-derived 5'-nucleotidase and (3) a hitherto unidentified 100 kD membrane protein from epididymis, seminal vesicle and prostate. I. Fibronectin is an extracellular matrix protein which is also secreted from the seminal vesicles participating in the formation of the seminal clot. Immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy revealed a relatively broad distribution pattern of fibronectin immunoreactivity on spermatozoa from different donors. Adding a fibronectin antiserum at a moderate dilution to vital spermatozoa in vitro resulted in a significant increase in sperm motility. Purified plasma fibronectin added at various concentrations to a vital sperm preparation was found to inhibit sperm motility in a dose-dependent manner. Measurement of calcium fluxes in individual sperm in the presence of fibronectin showed a significant increase. These findings point to a possible post-testicular regulatory function of seminal fibronectin. 2.5'-Nucleotidase (5'-NT) is an enzyme that hydrolyzes nucleotides such as AMP or IMP into inorganic phosphate and the respective nucleoside. The highest amount and activity of 5'-nucleotidase was present in glandular cells of the prostate; much less was detected in seminal vesicles and epididymis. On spermatozoa, the enzyme was localized on the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane covering the acrosomal region. Addition of purified enzyme to an in vitro incubation system of spermatozoa had no effect on sperm motility. A slight reduction of overall motility, however, was observed after addition of 5'-NT antibody to the spermatozoa. When 5'-nucleotidase inhibitors and adenosine channel antagonists were added to the sperm incubation system, a clear-cut inhibition of sperm motility occurred in a dose-dependent manner. This result is interpreted as indicating a significant role of ecto-5'-nucleotidase in the regulation of sperm motility. 3. A polyvalent antiserum against native human prostasomes recognized antigens in the range of 10-14 kD and of approximately 100 kD, respectively, in seminal fluid and prostate homogenates. Immunohistochemical studies revealed the presence of respective antigens in the epididymis, seminal vesicles and the prostate. Immunoelectron microscopy of ultracryo-sections showed labeling both of the apical plasma membrane in the prostate, as well as intraluminal secretory particles indicating the apocrine i.e. plasma-membrane bounded release of these particles. The secretory elements are termed "seminosomes". An affinity-purified fraction within the antiserum recognizes a 100 kD protein which is present both in the apical plasma membrane of the male genital glands, but also in the sperm head and principal piece of human spermatozoa. Incubation of spermatozoa with seminosomes and the respective purified antiserum had no effect on sperm motility. This is in contradistinction to former reports on motility increase induced by the so-called prostasomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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