During their transit along the epididymidis, mammalian spermatozoa acquire new proteins involved in the acquisition of male gamete fertilizing ability. We previously described membranous vesicles called epididymosomes, which are secreted in an apocrine manner by the epididymal epithelium. Some selected proteins associated with epididymosomes are transferred to spermatozoa during epididymal transit. The present study compared epididymosomes collected from caput epididymal fluid with vesicles from the cauda epididymidis in the bull. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis revealed major differences in protein composition of epididymosomes isolated from the caput and cauda epididymidis. LC-QToF analysis of major protein spots as well as Western blot analysis confirmed the differences in proteins associated with these two populations of epididymosomes. Biotinylated proteins associated with caput and cauda epididymosomes also revealed differences. When incubated with caput epididymal spermatozoa, epididymosomes prepared from these two segments transferred different protein patterns. By contrast, cauda epididymosomes transferred the same pattern of proteins to spermatozoa from the caput and cauda epididymidis. Transfer of biotinylated proteins from cauda epididymosomes to caput spermatozoa decreased in a dose-dependent manner when biotinylated epididymosomes were diluted with unbiotinylated vesicles. Caput epididymosomes added in excess were unable to inhibit transfer of biotinylated proteins from cauda epididymosomes to caput spermatozoa. Following transfer of biotinylated proteins from cauda epididymosomes to caput spermatozoa, addition of unbiotinylated cauda epididymosomes was unable to displace already transferred biotinylated proteins. These results established that epididymosomes from caput and cauda epididymidis have different protein composition and interact differently with maturing spermatozoa.
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