Our earlier studies in mouse have shown that the cystatin-related epididymal spermatogenic (CRES) protein is highly expressed in elongating spermatids in the testis and is present in mouse sperm acrosomes, suggesting specific roles in sperm function, fertilization, or both. However, whether the human CRES gene is similar to that of the mouse and is expressed in germ cells has not yet been determined. Therefore, the present study was undertaken to characterize the human ortholog of mouse Cres. Northern blot and in situ hybridization experiments showed that CRES is highly expressed in the human testis, specifically within clusters of round spermatids. Furthermore, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction detected CRES mRNA in the epididymis. Western blot analysis of protein lysates prepared from human testis and ejaculated spermatozoa showed a predominant 19-kDa protein and a minor 14-kDa protein. However, in contrast to the acrosomal localization of CRES protein in mouse spermatozoa, indirect immunofluorescence of human spermatozoa treated with methanol/acetic acid using anti-human CRES antibodies revealed that CRES was strictly localized to the equatorial segment. Furthermore, the same staining was observed in both capacitated and acrosome-reacted spermatozoa. To determine whether CRES was associated with the plasma membrane, live spermatozoa were incubated with CRES antibody after capacitation and acrosome reaction. Only acrosome-reacted spermatozoa showed a weak but specific equatorial staining. Taken together, these studies show that CRES protein is present in the sperm equatorial segment and becomes accessible to the extracellular environment during fertilization.
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