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J Androl. 2011 Nov-Dec;32(6):679-85. doi: 10.2164/jandrol.111.012963. Epub 2011 Jul 15.

Cystatin-related epididymal spermatogenic aggregates in the epididymis.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 3601 4th Street, Lubbock, TX 79430, USA.


Cystatin-related epididymal spermatogenic (CRES) is the defining member of a reproductive subgroup within the family 2 cystatins of the cystatin superfamily of cysteine protease inhibitors. CRES is synthesized and secreted by the initial segment of the epididymis and is present in the sperm acrosome, suggesting roles in sperm maturation and fertilization. We have previously demonstrated that CRES is present within the epididymal lumen as monomeric (14 and N-glycosylated 19-kd forms) as well as sodium dodecyl sulfate-sensitive and sodium dodecyl sulfate-resistant high-molecular mass complexes. We have also shown that recombinant CRES protein will self-aggregate and form amyloid structures in vitro, raising the possibility that CRES might also form amyloid in vivo. Amyloid is a large protein aggregate with a specific cross-β sheet structure, and its presence is usually associated with disease. This review discusses protein aggregation in the epididymis and provides a brief overview of amyloid formation, including recent studies in other organ systems identifying examples of amyloid that are nonpathologic and carry out biologic functions (ie, functional amyloid). Studies that were carried out to determine if amyloid is present in the epididymal lumen and if CRES is associated with these structures are also described. The presence of CRES amyloid in the mouse epididymal lumen and the absence of pathology suggest either the presence of mechanisms to neutralize the cytotoxicity associated with pathologic amyloid or that CRES is a new example of a functional amyloid with roles in epididymal function.

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