Sperm cells undergo maturation during their transit throughout the epididymis. This process takes place in region-specific manner in which sperm are battered by proteins secreted by epithelium lining the epididymal duct. Most of the genes that encode for the proteins involved in the sperm maturation remain uncharacterized. Previous studies showed that family of β-defensins preferentially eaxpressed in male reproductive tracts and play an important role in both innate immunity and sperm fertility. In this study we characterized Defb20 to gain insight on its role in sperm maturation. Bioinformatic tools were used to analyzed functional domains and signal peptide. qRT-PCR analyses were used to analyzed tissue distribution, dependency on androgen and testicular factors and developmental-regulated expression analysis. Defb20 sequence contains important domains such as N-myristoilation and kinase binding sites which are putatively involved in the protein activation and protein-plasma membrane interaction. Moreover, DEFB20 contains a signal peptide indicating characteristic of secretory proteins. Defb20 was expressed exclusively in the epididymis with the highest expression in the caput region and was down-regulated by gonadectomy. Defb20 was also regulated by testicular factors in which the expression was down-regulated after efferent duct ligation (EDL). The dependency on the androgen was further confirmed by postnatal expression analysis in which Defb20 began to express at day-20 postnatal indicating specific stage of expression after initial development of the testis. In conclusion, Defb20 have a potential to be involved in the epididymal sperm maturation process.
- Testicular factors