• Recombinant polypeptide;
  • intrasplenic immunization;
  • monoclonal antibody;
  • nuclear protein;
  • sperm

PROBLEM: The molecular identity of sperm DNA-binding structural proteins contributing to the integrity of a sperm residual high salt/nuclease resistant nuclear structure is studied by cDNA cloning and monoclonal antibodies to the recombinant polypeptide. This structure, which is likely to be transferred unimpaired in the oocyte and is anticipated as a molecular correlate of the nuclear scaffold (nuclear matrix/envelope) in somatic cells, may be essential with respect to its DNA organization for the recovery and assembly of somatic-type chromatin in the zygote. Recently, a cDNA encoding one of these proteins has been cloned and the recombinant polypeptide expressed in E. coli as a β-galactosidase fusion protein. The main objective of the present study is the identification of the native sperm antigen by monoclonal antibodies raised against the recombinant molecule.

METHODS: We evaluated the possibility of immunizing by direct intrasplenic deposition in BALB/c mice of the recombinant fusion protein available as transblotted on nitrocellulose membrane carriers or as nitrocellulose protein-bearing particles. Isolated sperm DNA/tight binding protein complexes were used in ELISA and Western blotting for selection of monoclonal antibodies specific to self epitopes of the nuclear antigen, as well as immunofluorescence of swollen human spermatozoa subjected to in situ extraction with high salt/β-mercaptoethanol/DNase I and proteolysis, and of a cultured fibroblast cell line L-929.

RESULTS: A monoclonal antibody, Mab 2C4, was selected which recognized a 52 kDa protein in the fraction of sperm high salt/urea resistant proteins. The target polypeptide was detected on swollen spermatozoa primarily to the post-acrosomal and/or equatorial regions whereas in nonextracted sperm cells the epitope was exceedingly unavailable. The somatic cell location of the cognate epitope was confined to the nuclear envelope displaying a caplike pattern of staining, and also in a juxtanuclear cytoplasmic randomly coiled filamentous network and in compact bodies.

CONCLUSIONS: A nuclear protein salt-stably bound to the sperm residual structure has been identified. The antigen appears localized in sperm exclusively to perinuclear subacrosomal sites that may be anchored at the male nuclear envelope, given the occurrence of the target epitope in somatic cells as well in nuclear and cytoplasmic sites adjacent to the nuclear membrane.