Spermiogenesis entails a major biochemical and morphological restructuring of the germ cell involving replacement of the somatic histones by protamines packing the DNA into the condensed spermatid nucleus and elimination of the cytoplasm during the elongation phase. We describe H1T2, an histone H1 variant selectively and transiently expressed in male haploid germ cells during spermiogenesis. In round and elongating spermatids, H1T2 specifically localizes to a chromatin domain at the apical pole, revealing a polarity in the spermatid nucleus. Inactivation by homologous recombination shows that H1T2 is critical for spermiogenesis as male H1t2(-/-) mice have greatly reduced fertility. Analysis of spermiogenesis in H1t2 mutant mice shows delayed nuclear condensation and aberrant elongation. As a result, mutant spermatids are characterized by the presence of residual cytoplasm, acrosome detachment, and fragmented DNA. Hence, H1T2 is a protein required for proper cell restructuring and DNA condensation during the elongation phase of spermiogenesis.
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