Glycoconjugates on the surface of epididymal spermatozoa in a marsupial, the brushtail pos̊sum, Trichosurus vulpecula

Nicole Isaacs, R. V. McClean, C. M. Leigh, W. G. Breed

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Variation in localization and distribution of saccharides on the sperm surface of a marsupial, the brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula, was compared between spermatozoa from the caput and cauda epididymides. Spermatozoa were subjected to the following treatments: (i) unfixed and fixed spermatozoa were stained with fluorescein-labelled lectins; (ii) unfixed spermatozoa were incubated with lectins for determination of agglutination; and (iii) spermatozoa were incubated with detergent to remove the plasmalemma, the glycoproteins were separated on SDS-PAGE and western blots were stained with biotinylated lectins. Many of the fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labelled lectins bound selectively to the sperm surface, and marked differences were found in lectin staining affinity between caput and cauda epididymal spermatozoa. Incubation of spermatozoa from the cauda epididymidis with neuraminidase reversed many of the differences in staining of the cauda epididymal spermatozoa, indicating masking of some terminal saccharides by sialic acid. Agglutination of spermatozoa from the caput epididymidis occurred after incubation with Concanavalin A (ConA) and soybean agglutinin (SBA), but agglutination was less extensive for spermatozoa from the cauda epididymidis. Western blot analysis indicated several ConA-positive bands in caput sperm extracts, but fewer positive bands in the cauda sperm extracts, whereas SBA stained four bands from caput but none from the cauda epididymal spermatozoa. These results demonstrate extensive glycosylation of the surface proteins of spermatozoa from the caput epididymidis and significant differences in spermatozoa from the cauda epididymidis. In general, the findings indicate similar glycosylation of the surface of marsupial spermatozoa to those from eutherian mammals despite marked differences in their morphology and early divergence of marsupials from eutherian mammals. It would appear that this situation differs markedly from that in sub-mammalian vertebrates.

Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Embryology
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Cell Biology

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