The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 44: 195 - 199 (2000)

Vol 44, Issue 2

Requirement of protamine for maintaining nuclear condensation of medaka (Oryzias latipes) spermatozoa shed into water but not for promoting nuclear condensation during spermatogenesis

Published: 1 February 2000

Y Shimizu, K Mita, M Tamura, K Onitake and M Yamashita

Division of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.


Protamine is an arginine-rich basic protein found in the sperm nuclei of many vertebrates, but its actual roles in spermatozoa remain to be elucidated. In this study, we investigated the physiological roles of protamine by examining protamine-less spermatozoa produced in vitro in the presence of the transcriptional inhibitor actinomycin D. Even under inhibited transcription, medaka spermatocytes underwent meiosis and differentiated into spermatozoa with a condensed nucleus and an elongated flagellum. Using a newly produced anti-medaka protamine antibody, we confirmed the absence of protamine protein in the spermatozoa differentiated in the presence of actinomycin D. These findings clearly indicate that sperm nuclear condensation in medaka is independent of protamine. Since medaka spermatozoa are shed into water upon natural fertilization, we also investigated the roles of protamine by comparing the differences between the nuclear morphology of protamine-equipped and protamine-less spermatozoa immersed in water. The nuclei without protamine more rapidly swelled than did those with protamine and completely broke down within 10 min, whereas more than 80% of the sperm nuclei with protamine resisted the disruption under similar conditions. These findings strongly suggest that a physiological role of protamine in medaka spermatozoa is to protect the ejaculated spermatozoa against the disruption by low osmotic pressure until arrival at the eggs for successful fertilization.

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