Posttranslational Modifications in Spermatozoa and Effects on Male Fertility and Sperm Viability.
Changes that occur to mammalian sperm upon epididymal transit and maturation render these cells capable of moving progressively and capacitating. Signaling events leading to mammalian sperm capacitation depend on the modulation of proteins by phosphorylation and dephosphorylation cascades. Recent experiments have demonstrated that the Src family of kinases plays an important role in the regulation of these events. However, sperm from cSrc null mice display normal tyrosine phosphorylation associated with capacitation. We report here that, despite normal phosphorylation, sperm from cSrc null mice display a severe reduction in forward motility, and are unable to fertilize in vitro. Histological analysis of seminiferous tubules in the testes, caput and corpus epididymis do not reveal obvious defects. However, the cauda epididymis is significantly smaller, and expression of key transport proteins in the epithelial cells lining this region is reduced in cSrc null mice compared to wild type littermates. Although previously, we and others have shown the presence of cSrc in mature sperm from cauda epididymis, a closer evaluation indicates that this tyrosine kinase is not present in sperm from the caput epididymis, suggesting that this protein is acquired by sperm later during epididymal maturation. Consistent with this observation, cSrc is enriched in vesicles released by the epididymal epithelium known as epididymosomes. Altogether, these observations indicate that cSrc is essential for cauda epididymal development and suggest an essential role of this kinase in epididymal sperm maturation involving cSrc extracellular trafficking.