Acquisition of sperm fertilizing ability is due, in part, to the reorganization of plasma membrane proteins that occurs during epididymal sperm transit. Using polyclonal antibodies against angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE), we showed that this enzyme is immunolocalized mainly on the middle piece of rat and mouse testicular sperm and with less intensity along the initial part of the principal piece of the flagellum. In both species, only some sperm from the caput epididymis were still reactive, whereas no labeling was observed on cauda epididymal sperm. The 105- to 110-kDa germinal ACE was absent from the rat testicular fluid but appeared in the fluid of the anterior epididymis. Thereafter, its molecular weight shifted to 94 kDa in the corpus epididymal fluid and remained at this weight in the caudal region. The 105- to 110-kDa immunoreactive protein was present in testicular rat sperm extract but was completely absent from epididymal sperm extracts. Western blot analysis of testicular and epididymal tissue extracts from the rat and mouse also confirmed that the germinal enzyme was absent from the epididymal sperm cell. Our results demonstrated that the rodent germinal ACE is released from the testicular sperm membrane when sperm enter the epididymis, a process similar to that observed in domestic mammals. This result is discussed in view of the suggested role for this enzyme in sperm fertility.
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