Testicular expression of small ubiquitin-related modifier-1 (SUMO-1) supports multiple roles in spermatogenesis: Silencing of sex chromosomes in spermatocytes, spermatid microtubule nucleation, and nuclear reshaping

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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SUMO-1 is a member of a ubiquitin-related family of proteins that mediates important post-translational effects affecting diverse physiological functions. Whereas SUMO-1 is detected in the testis, little is known about its reproductive role in males. Herein, cell-specific SUMO-1 was localized in freshly isolated, purified male germ cells and somatic cells of mouse and rat testes using Western analysis, high-resolution single-cell bioimaging, and in situ confocal microscopy of seminiferous tubules. During germ cell development, SUMO-1 was observed at low but detectable levels in the cytoplasm of spermatogonia and early spermatocytes. SUMO-1 appeared on gonosomal chromatin during zygotene when chromosome homologues pair and sex chromatin condensation is initiated. Striking SUMO-1 increases in the sex body of early-to-mid-pachytene spermatocytes correlated with timing of additional sex chromosome condensation. Before the completion of the first meiotic division, SUMO-1 disappeared from the sex body when X and Y chromosomal activity resumed. Together, these data indicate that sumoylation may be involved in non-homologous chromosomal synapsis, meiotic sex chromosome inactivation, and XY body formation. During spermiogenesis, SUMO-1 localized in chromocenters of certain round spermatids and perinuclear ring and centrosomes of elongating spermatids, data implicating SUMO-1 in the process of microtubule nucleation and nuclear reshaping. STAT-4, one potential target of sumoylation, was located along the spermatid nuclei, adjacent but not co-localized with SUMO-1. Androgen receptor-positive Leydig, Sertoli, and some peritubular myoepithelial cells express SUMO-1, findings suggesting a role in modulating steroid action. Testicular SUMO-1 expression supports its specific functions in inactivation of sex chromosomes during meiosis, spermatid microtubule nucleation, nuclear reshaping, and gene expression.