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      Loss of nectin-2 at Sertoli-spermatid junctions leads to male infertility and correlates with severe spermatozoan head and midpiece malformation, impaired binding to the zona pellucida, and oocyte penetration.

      Biology of reproduction

      Zona Pellucida, metabolism, Epididymis, Female, Genetic Engineering, methods, Infertility, Male, genetics, pathology, Intercellular Junctions, physiology, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Microfilament Proteins, Oocytes, Sertoli Cells, cytology, Sperm Motility, Sperm-Ovum Interactions, Spermatids, Spermatozoa, Animals, Cell Adhesion Molecules

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          The members of the nectin/CD155 gene family represent a growing class of novel cell adhesion molecules of the immunoglobulin superfamily. In the present study, we describe the generation of a mouse line lacking a functional nectin-2 gene (nectin-2LacZ/LacZ) and analyze the resulting male-specific infertility phenotype. Although nectin-2LacZ/LacZ males produced normal amounts of motile spermatozoa, scanning electron microscopy revealed severe malformations of the spermatozoan head and midpiece. Besides a 4-fold reduction in migration of nectin-2LacZ/LacZ spermatozoa to the oviducts, in vitro binding to zona-intact mouse oocytes was reduced 6-fold. On the other hand, nectin-2LacZ/LacZ spermatozoa bound to zona-free hamster oocytes at near-wild type levels but, remarkably, failed to penetrate. In addition to the previously reported expression of nectin-2 and nectin-3 at Sertoli-spermatid junctions and of nectin-2 at inter-Sertoli cell junctions, we also found nectin-2 to localize at apical cell-cell junctions of the epididymal epithelium. Expression analysis of a LacZ knockin gene into the defunct nectin-2 gene in nectin-2LacZ/LacZ mice provided additional support for our earlier conjecture that in normal testis, nectin-2 is produced exclusively by Sertoli cells. Finally, we found Sertoli-spermatid junctions in nectin-2LacZ/LacZ mice to be virtually devoid of the actin-bundling protein espin, suggesting that ectoplasmic specializations fail to form in the absence of nectin-2. Our functional analyses indicate that the infertility phenotype of nectin-2-deficient male mice is caused by a combination of reduced migration to the oviduct, spermatozoa-zona binding, and sperm-oocyte fusion. We corroborate our previous description of a heterotypic adhesion complex between Sertoli cells and elongated spermatids that is maintained by nectin-2 and nectin-3, respectively.

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