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Human molecular genetics

A novel requirement in mammalian spermatid differentiation for the DAZ-family protein Boule.


PMID 20335278

Abstract

Reproduction is required for the survival of all animals, yet few reproductive genes have been shown to have a conserved requirement for fertility across the animal kingdom. Remarkably, the RNA binding protein BOULE, the oldest member of the DAZ (Deleted in AZoospermia) family of genes, appears to have maintained its conserved functional motif and spermatogenic expression from insects to humans. Boule mutations lead to a pachytene meiotic arrest before metaphase in Drosophila males and C. elegans females, and human BOULE can restore meiosis in the fly testis, suggesting a conserved meiotic function of human BOULE. However, the physiological function of BOULE in mammals is not yet known. We generated Boule knockout mice and found it to be required only for spermatogenesis, as in Drosophila. Interestingly, meiosis completed normally in the absence of Boule, and haploid round spermatids were readily detected. However, round spermatids did not progress beyond step 6, revealing a novel role for Boule in spermiogenesis, the differentiation of round spermatids into mature spermatozoa. Expression of key regulators of spermiogenesis was unaffected in Boule(-/-) mice, suggesting that Boule regulates germ-cell differentiation through a novel pathway.