Previous studies of sperm from mice heterozygous for a t haplotype (t) and heterospecific combinations of the t complex identified two tightly linked genetic factors responsible for t/t male sterility related to expression of the flagellar waveform aberration, curlicue. Dnahc8, an axonemal dynein heavy chain gene, is a strong candidate for the proximal factor, Ccua, but the identity of the distal factor, Ccub, is unknown. In the present study, we employ motility assays of sperm from males heterozygous for t and novel heterospecific combinations of the t complex to demonstrate that Ccub is a composite of at least two synergic elements, Ccub1, positioned within a genomic interval spanning ∼0.6 Mb immediately distal to Dnahc8, and Ccub2, situated in a region ∼4–7 Mb distal to Ccub1. We also show that Tsga2, a testis-restricted gene, fulfills many of the prerequisites required to make it a strong candidate for Ccub1. These include: 1) its location within the aforementioned genomic interval; 2) a highly reduced level of testis expression by its heterospecific allele relative to the level of expression of its t allele; 3) determination that TSGA2t carries numerous nonsynonymous mutations in residues otherwise highly conserved in all known orthologous proteins; 4) the detection of major TSGA2 polypeptides in sperm protein extracts; and 5) the apparent distribution of these polypeptides in major sperm tail structures. Surprisingly, these TSGA2 isoforms appear to localize in the vicinity of the anterior acrosome, as well, suggesting that Tsga2 may also play a role in sperm-egg interaction. Finally, our results indicate that a TSGA2 polypeptide with apparent similarities to the smaller of the two sperm isoforms is expressed by epididymal cells.
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