Overexpressing sperm surface β1,4-galactosyltransferase in transgenic mice affects multiple aspects of sperm-egg interactions

Adel Youakim, Helen J. Hathaway, David J. Miller, Xiaohai Gong, Barry D. Shur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sperm surface β1,4-galactosyltransferase (GalTase) mediates fertilization in mice by binding to specific O-linked oligosaccharide ligands on the egg coat glycoprotein ZP3. Before binding the egg, sperm GalTase is masked by epididymally derived glycosides that are shed from the sperm surface during capacitation. After binding the egg, sperm-bound oligosaccharides on ZP3 induce the acrosome reaction by receptor aggregation, presumably involving GalTase. In this study, we asked how increasing the levels of sperm surface GalTase would affect sperm-egg interactions using transgenic mice that overexpress GalTase under the control of a heterologous promoter. GalTase expression was elevated in many tissues in adult transgenic animals, including testis. Sperm from transgenic males had approximately six times the wild-type level of surface GalTase protein, which was localized appropriately on the sperm head as revealed by indirect immunofluorescence. As expected, sperm from transgenic mice bound more radiolabeled ZP3 than did wild-type sperm. However, sperm from transgenic animals were relatively unable to bind eggs, as compared to sperm from wild-type animals. The mechanistic basis for the reduced egg-binding ability of transgenic sperm was attributed to alterations in two GalTase-dependent events. First, transgenic sperm that overexpress surface GalTase bound more epididymal glycoside substrates than did sperm from wild-type mice, thus masking GalTase and preventing it from interacting with its zona pellucida ligand. Second, those sperm from transgenic mice that were able to bind the zona pellucida were hypersensitive to ZP3, such that they underwent precocious acrosome reactions and bound to eggs more tenuously than did wild-type sperm. These results demonstrate that sperm-egg binding requires an optimal, rather than maximal, level of surface GalTase expression, since increasing this level decreases sperm reproductive efficiency both before and after egg binding. Although sperm GalTase is required for fertilization by serving as a receptor for the egg zona pellucida, excess surface GalTase is counterproductive to successful sperm- egg binding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1573-1583
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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