Spermatogenesis can be divided into three stages: spermatogonial mitosis, meiosis of spermatocytes, and spermiogenesis. During spermiogenesis, spermatids undergo dramatic morphological changes including formation of a flagellum and chromosomal packaging and condensation of the nucleus into the sperm head. The genes regulating the latter processes are largely unknown. We previously discovered that a bi-functional gene, Spag16, is essential for spermatogenesis. SPAG16S, the 35 kDa, testis-specific isoform derived from the Spag16 gene, was found to bind to meiosis expressed gene 1 product (MEIG1), a protein originally thought to play a role in meiosis. We inactivated the Meig1 gene and, unexpectedly, found that Meig1 mutant male mice had no obvious defect in meiosis, but were sterile as a result of impaired spermatogenesis at the stage of elongation and condensation. Transmission electron microscopy revealed that the manchette, a microtubular organelle essential for sperm head and flagellar formation was disrupted in spermatids of MEIG1-deficient mice. We also found that MEIG1 associates with the Parkin co-regulated gene (PACRG) protein, and that testicular PACRG protein is reduced in MEIG1-deficient mice. PACRG is thought to play a key role in assembly of the axonemes/flagella and the reproductive phenotype of Pacrg-deficient mice mirrors that of the Meig1 mutant mice. Our findings reveal a critical role for the MEIG1/PARCG partnership in manchette structure and function and the control of spermiogenesis.
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