In their journey to acquire the ability to fertilize the egg, numerous intracellular signaling systems are activated in spermatozoa, leading to an increase in protein tyrosine phosphorylation. Although the JAK/STAT signaling pathway is usually associated with the activation of transcription of specific genes, our laboratory previously demonstrated the presence of the IL6 receptor (IL6R) and the Janus kinase 1 (JAK1) in human spermatozoa, a cell that is mostly transcriptionally inactive. In order to determine the importance of the JAK/STAT signaling pathway, our objectives were to identify and characterize the mediators of this system in human sperm. Cell fractionation and surface biotinylation assays clearly demonstrated that IL6R is expressed at the sperm membrane surface. The kinase JAK1 is enriched in membrane fractions and is activated during human sperm capacitation as suggested by its increase in phosphotyrosine content. Many signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) proteins are expressed in human sperm, including STAT1, STAT3, STAT4, STAT5, and STAT6. Among them, only STAT1 and STAT5 were detected in the cytosolic fraction. All the detected STAT proteins were enriched in the cytoskeletal structures. STAT4 was present in the perinuclear theca, whereas JAK1, STAT1, and STAT5 were detected in the fibrous sheath. Indirect immunofluorescence studies showed that JAK1 and STAT1 colocalized in the neck region and that STAT4 is present at the equatorial segment and flagella. The presence of STAT proteins in sperm structural components suggests that their role is different from their well-known transcription factor activity in somatic cells, but further investigations are required to determine their role in sperm function.
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Vol. 85 • No. 6