The protein YWHAE (14-3-3 epsilon) in spermatozoa is essential for male fertility

Alaa Eisa, Souvik Dey, Alex Ignatious, Wesam Nofal, Rex A. Hess, Manabu Kurokawa, Douglas Kline, Srinivasan Vijayaraghavan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Spermatogenesis is a complex biological process highlighted by synthesis and activation of proteins that regulate meiosis and cellular differentiation occur during spermatogenesis. 14-3-3 proteins are adaptor proteins that play critical roles in kinase signaling, especially for regulation of cell cycle and apoptosis in eukaryotic cells. There are seven isoforms of the 14-3-3 family proteins encoded by seven genes (β, ε, γ, η, θ/τ, ζ and σ). 14-3-3 isoforms have been shown to have many interacting partners in several tissues including testis. Objective: While it is known that 14-3-3 proteins are expressed in the functions of testis and spermatozoon, the role for each of the seven isoforms is not known. In this study, we investigated the roles of 14-3-3η and 14-3-3ε isoforms in spermatogenesis. Materials and methods: To study the in vivo function of 14-3-3η and 14-3-3ε in spermatogenesis, we generated testis-specific and global knockout mice for each of 14-3-3η and 14-3-3ε isoforms (CKO and GKO, respectively). Computer-assisted semen analysis was used to assess sperm motility, while immunohistochemical studies were conducted to check spermatogenesis. Results: Although both 14-3-3η and 14-3-3ε isoforms were present in mouse testis, only the expression of 14-3-3ε, but not 14-3-3η, was detected in spermatozoa. Mice lacking 14-3-3η were normal and fertile while 14-3-3ε CKO and GKO males showed infertility. Low sperm count with higher abnormal spermatozoa was seen in 14-3-3ε CKO mice. The motility of 14-3-3ε knockout spermatozoa was lower than that of the control. A reduction in the phosphorylation of both glycogen synthase kinase 3 and PP1γ2 was also seen in spermatozoa from 14-3-3ε CKO mice, suggesting a specific role of 14-3-3ε in spermatogenesis, sperm motility, and fertility. Discussion and conclusion: This is the first demonstration that of the seven 14-3-3 isoforms, 14-3-3ε is essential for normal sperm function and male fertility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-328
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • 14-3-3
  • YWHA
  • infertility
  • sperm motility
  • spermatogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Urology


Dive into the research topics of 'The protein YWHAE (14-3-3 epsilon) in spermatozoa is essential for male fertility'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this