Proteins immunologically related to intermediate filaments have been identified in the sperm fibrous sheath but remain uncharacterized. We isolated and characterized a novel intermediate filament-related protein (FS39) localized to the fibrous sheath of the sperm tail. We used Northern blot analysis to establish that FS39 is transcribed predominantly in the testis of mice >18–20 days old. At this age, spermatogenesis has proceeded to the development of the first round haploid spermatids. In situ hybridization revealed that FS39 mRNA is first detectable in late step 3 spermatids, is at its highest level during steps 9 and 10, and diminishes in steps 13 and 14. Western blot analysis identified a single protein of 39 kDa in mouse and rat testis and epididymis, suggesting the protein is conserved in rodents. Indirect immunofluorescence localized FS39 to the fibrous sheath of the sperm tail, and in testis sections expression was detected from step 13 and step 14 spermatids onward, indicating FS39 is under translational control. Southern blot analysis showed FS39 to be a single copy gene, and hybridization to human genomic DNA suggested that a human equivalent gene is present. These results demonstrate that FS39 is transcribed in testis tissue during the haploid phase of spermatogenesis, is present in mature sperm, and codes for a novel 39-kDa intermediate filament-related protein of the fibrous sheath.
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