Modified testicular expression of stress-associated “readthrough” acetylcholinesterase predicts male infertility

Male infertility is often attributed to stress. However, the protein or proteins that mediate stress-related infertility are not yet known. Overexpression of the “readthrough” variant of acetylcholinesterase (AChE-R) is involved in the cellular stress response in a variety of mammalian tissues. Here, we report testicular overexpression of AChE-R in heads, but not tails, of postmeiotic spermatozoa from mice subjected to a transient psychological stress compared with age-matched control mice. Transgenic mice overexpressing AChE-R displayed reduced sperm counts, decreased seminal gland weight, and impaired sperm motility compared with age-matched nontransgenic controls. AChE-R was prominent in meiotic phase spermatocytes and in tails, but not heads, of testicular spermatozoa from AChE-R transgenic mice. Head-localized AChE-R was characteristic of human sperm from fertile donors. In contrast, sperm head AChE-R staining was conspicuously reduced in samples from human couples for whom the cause of infertility could not be determined, similar to the pattern found in transgenic mice. These findings indicate AChE-R involvement in impaired sperm quality, which suggests that it is a molecular marker for stress-related infertility.

Authors: Mor I, Grisaru D, Titelbaum L, Evron T, Richler C, Wahrman J, Sternfeld M, Yogev L, Meiri N, Seidman S, Soreq H.
Year of publication: 2001
Journal: FASEB J. 2001 Sep;15(11):2039-41. Epub 2001 Jul 24.

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