Temporal control of protein synthesis during spermatogenesis
Braun, Robert E.
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During oogenesis and spermatogenesis transcription ceases prior to the differentiation of the mature cells. To complete germ cell differentiation and initiate early embryogenesis, proteins are synthesized from pre-existing mRNAs that are stored for several days. It is well established that important regulatory elements functioning in spatial localization, temporal translation or messenger RNA stability are located in the 3' untranslated region (3' UTR) of mRNAs. During mammalian spermatogenesis temporal translational regulation of the protamine 1 (Prm1) mRNA is dependent on a highly conserved sequence located in the distal region of its 3' UTR. The 17-nucleotide translational control element (TCE) mediates translational repression of the Prm1 mRNA. Mutation of the TCE causes premature synthesis of protamine protein and sterility. The Prm1 mRNA is stored as a cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein (mRNP) particle in spermatids. Contained within the particle are several members of the Y box family of nucleic acid binding proteins. In the yeast three-hybrid system the murine Y box proteins MSY1, MSY2 and MSY4 bind in a sequence-dependent manner to a conserved region in the proximal portion of the Prm1 3' UTR. Sequence-specific binding by MSY4 to the Y box recognition sequence (YRS) is dependent on the highly conserved cold shock domain, possibly through the RNP1 and RNP2 motifs present within it. The Y box proteins may function as translational repressors in vivo. Alternatively, their primary function may be to protect mRNAs from degradation during their extended period of storage. Translational activation of stored mRNAs is essential for the completion of gametogenesis. Proper translational activation of the Prm1 mRNA in elongated spermatids requires the cytoplasmic double-stranded RNA binding protein TARBP2. Tarbp2 is expressed at low levels in many cells but is expressed at robust levels in late stage meiotic cells and in postmeiotic spermatids. Mice mutant for Tarbp2 are defective in proper translational activation of the Prm1 and Prm2 mRNAs and are sterile. Current studies are designed to determine the mechanism by which proteins bound to the 3' UTR communicate with the 5' end of the message to control translational silencing and activation.