P26h is a hamster sperm protein of 26 kDa that has been previously characterized as a surface protein covering the acrosome acquired during epididymal transit. P26h is involved in sperm-egg interactions. Recently, it has been shown that the P26h transcript is highly expressed in the testis, and the P26h cDNA has been cloned from a hamster testicular cDNA library. Herein we report the production of a fusion protein (maltose binding protein-P26h) with the whole P26h cDNA encoding sequence and the production of a polyclonal antiserum against it. In Western blots, this antiserum recognized both the P26h extracted from cauda epididymal spermatozoa and the MBP-P26h. We also determined the age of appearance of P26h and which germ cell types express P26h mRNA and its translational product. Northern blots and in situ hybridization analysis showed that P26h transcripts appear at 3 wk of age, within the first round of spermatogenesis in the golden hamster. In situ hybridization showed that P26h transcripts are expressed in spermatocytes and round spermatids, whereas immunostaining revealed the presence of P26h in the cytoplasm of round spermatids and elongated spermatids. P26h was undetectable in testicular spermatozoa. Both in situ hybridization and immunostaining showed P26h expression to be dependent of the testicular cell type and the epithelium cycle. The implications for P26h in sperm-egg interaction and the testicular origin of P26h are discussed.
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