CASK is in the mammalian sperm head and is processed during epididymal maturation

Heather R. Burkin, Longmei Zhao, David J. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Upon adhesion to the zona pellucida or egg extracellular matrix, sperm undergo regulated exocytosis of the acrosomal vesicle. CASK is an adaptor protein that has been implicated in coupling neuronal cell adhesion to regulated exocytosis. In neurons, this scaffolding molecule is associated with several types of transmembrane receptor complexes and connects cell adhesion molecules with ion channels, the actin cytoskeleton, and the cell's exocytotic machinery. We hypothesized CASK might also be an important link between zona pellucida binding and the sperm acrosome reaction. RT-PCR experiments indicated CASK is transcribed in mouse testis. The full size (120 kDa) CASK protein was present in testis from mouse and pig. Immunoblots of mature porcine and murine sperm revealed that the 120 kDa molecule was much less abundant than in testis but the antibody also recognized a group of smaller proteins migrating at 55-65 kDa. Immunofluorescence experiments indicated both the full length and smaller CASK immunoreactive products were found only in the acrosomal region of spermatids and mature sperm and not in other testicular cell types. CASK immunofluorescence was lost following the acrosome reaction. During epididymal maturation, the abundance of the full size CASK decreased and the CASK fragments increased. These results suggest that CASK may be proteolytically processed during epididymal maturation. Because sperm acquire the ability to bind the zona pellucida, acrosome react, and fertilize eggs during epididymal maturation, CASK processing may play a role in the acquisition of these functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-506
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular reproduction and development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Acrosome
  • CASK
  • Epididymis
  • Sperm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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