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ABSTRACT: Spermatozoa are highly specialized cells which transport a single-copy haploid genome to the site of fertilization. Before this, spermatozoa undergo a series of biochemical and functional modifications. In recent years, the crucial role of androgens and estrogens in proper germ cell differentiation during spermatogenesis has been demonstrated. However, their implication in the biology of mature male gametes is still to be defined. Our study provides evidence for the first time that aromatase, the androgen receptor (AR), as well as the estrogen receptors α and β (ERα and ERβ), are present in bank vole spermatozoa. We demonstrated the region-specific localization of these proteins in bank vole spermatozoa using confocal microscopy. Immunoreactive aromatase was observed in the proximal head region and in both the proximal and distal tail regions, whereas steroid hormone receptors were found only in the proximal region of the sperm head. Protein expression in sperm lysates was detected by Western blot analysis. Immunohistochemical results were analyzed quantitatively. Our results show that bank vole spermatozoa are both a source of estrogens and a target for steroid hormone action. Moreover, the presence of aromatase and steroid hormone receptors in the bank vole spermatozoa indicates a potential function of these proteins during capacitation and/or the acrosome reaction.
Theriogenology 04/2012; 78(2):385-92. · 2.08 Impact Factor