The GTPase-activating proteins (GAPs) accelerate the hydrolysis of GTP to GDP by small GTPases. The GTPases play diverse roles in many cellular processes, including proliferation, cell motility, endocytosis, nuclear import/export, and nuclear membrane formation. Little is known about GAP-domain proteins in spermatogenesis. We isolated a novel RhoGAP domain-containing tGAP1 protein from male germ cells that exhibits unusual properties. The tGAP1 is expressed at low levels in early spermatogonia. Robust transcription initiates in midpachytene spermatocytes and continues after meiosis. The 175-kDa tGAP1 protein localizes to the cytoplasm of spermatocytes and to the cytoplasm and nucleus in spermatids. The protein contains four GAP domain-related sequences, in contrast to all other GAP proteins that harbor one such domain. No activity toward RhoA, Rac1, or Cdc42 could be detected. Results of transfection studies in various somatic cells indicated that low-level tGAP1 expression significantly slows down the cell cycle. Expression of higher levels of tGAP1 by infection of somatic cells with recombinant adenoviruses demonstrated that tGAP1 efficiently induces apoptosis, which to our knowledge is the first such demonstration for a RhoGAP protein. Based on its subcellular location in spermatids and its activity, tGAP1 may play a role in nuclear import/export.
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