The Functions of Spermatozoa go Beyond Transmission of the Paternal Genome

According to an article published in the journal Proteomics (9(4):1004-17), certain human spermatozoon nuclear proteins associated with chromatin have epigenetic potential. This means that it may play a key role in the activation of some genes during initial embryonic development. The study was carried out by Dr. Rafael Oliva and Dr. Sara Mateo of the IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic Human Genetics Research group, and Dr. Josep María Estanyol of the proteomics unit of the faculty of medicine at the University of Barcelona.

The study is the most complete, up-to-date and exhaustive review in this field. It covers all the spermatozoon proteins identified to date and represents an extremely useful tool for researchers, as the function of many of these proteins is still not understood. It also gives relevance to and reviews novel aspects such as the detection of different nuclear proteins that can be transmitted to the ovum during fertilization.

The Hospital Clínic researchers have already described 98 proteins of the human spermatozoon, 23% of which had not been previously defined and 56% of which had not been found in this cell. A study is currently under way to monitor nuclear proteins with the aim of determining their exact location by administering antibodies against specific transcription factors.