Plasmalogens are a main component of the spermatozoon membrane, playing a crucial role in their maturation. The initial steps in plasmalogen biosynthesis are catalyzed by two peroxisomal enzymes, dihydroxyacetonephosphate acyltransferase and alkyl-dihydroxyacetonephosphate synthase. The localization of both enzymes in the membrane of peroxisomes implies that plasmalogen-producing cells should contain this organelle. To unravel the putative source of spermatozoan plasmalogens we investigated which cell types in the testis and epididymis are endowed with peroxisomes. To this extent, testicular and epididymal tissue was analyzed at the protein and RNA levels by means of light and electron microscopical immunocytochemistry as well as by Western and Northern blotting. Proteins and mRNAs of peroxisomal enzymes, especially those of dihydroxyacetonephosphate acyltransferase and alkyl-dihydroxyacetonephosphate synthase, were detected in the testis and epididymis. In the testis, peroxisomes were localized exclusively in Leydig cells and not in cells of the seminiferous tubules, implying that the latter do not contribute to the biosynthesis of plasmalogens of the sperm membrane. In contrast, peroxisomes could be clearly visualized in the epithelial cells of the epididymis. The results suggest that peroxisomes in epithelial cells of the rat epididymis play a pivotal role in the biosynthesis of plasmalogens destined for delivery to the sperm plasma membrane.
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