Brdt is a testis-specific member of the distinctive BET sub-family of bromodomain motif-containing proteins, a motif that binds acetylated lysines and is implicated in chromatin remodeling. Its expression is restricted to the germ line, specifically to pachytene and diplotene spermatocytes and early spermatids. Targeted mutagenesis was used to generate mice carrying a mutant allele of Brdt, Brdt(Delta)(BD1), which lacks only the first of the two bromodomains that uniquely characterize BET proteins. Homozygous Brdt(Delta)(BD1/)(Delta)(BD1) mice were viable but males were sterile, producing fewer and morphologically abnormal sperm. Aberrant morphogenesis was first detected in step 9 elongating spermatids, and those elongated spermatids that were formed lacked the distinctive foci of heterochromatin at the peri-nuclear envelope. Quantitative reverse transcription (RT)-PCR showed threefold increased levels of histone H1t (Hist1h1t) in Brdt(Delta)(BD1/)(Delta)(BD1) testes and chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed that Brdt protein, but not Brdt(DeltaBD1) protein, was associated with the promoter of H1t. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection suggested that the DNA in the Brdt(Delta)(BD1) mutant sperm could support early embryonic development and yield functional embryonic stem cells. This is the first demonstration that deletion of just one of the two bromodomains in members of the BET sub-family of bromodomain-containing proteins has profound effects on in vivo differentiation.
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