Outer dense fibers (ODFs) and the fibrous sheath (FS) are unique structures of the mammalian sperm tail. Recently, progress has been made in the molecular cloning of ODF and FS proteins, and because of this, questions addressing the morphogenesis and underlying protein network that make up sperm tail structures and their function can now be addressed. Using the N-terminal leucine zipper motif of the major ODF protein ODF1, we had previously isolated interacting proteins Odf2, Spag4, and Spag5. We report here a yeast two-hybrid strategy to isolate a novel rat testicular protein, OIP1, that binds to the evolutionarily conserved Cys-Gly-Pro repeats in the C-terminus of ODF1. OIP1 is expressed in round spermatids as well as in spermatocytes and several somatic tissues, albeit at a lower level. No expression was detectable in epididymis, heart, and smooth muscle. OIP1 protein localizes to the sperm tail in a pattern expected for an ODF1-interacting protein. OIP1 belongs to the family of RING finger proteins of the H2 subclass. Deletion of the putative RING motif significantly decreased binding to ODF1. Genomic analysis of rat Oip1 and Oip1 homologs indicates that Oip1 is highly conserved. Oip1 is subject to differential splicing and alternative polyadenylation events. It is interesting that Oip1 mRNAs have been reported that lack the exon encoding the putative RING finger.
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