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SPE-8, a protein-tyrosine kinase, localizes to the spermatid cell membrane through interaction with other members of the SPE-8 group spermatid activation signaling pathway in C. elegans

Paul J Muhlrad12, Jessica N Clark3, Ubaydah Nasri3, Nicholas G Sullivan3 and Craig W LaMunyon3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Arizona, 1007 Lowell St., Tucson, AZ 85721, USA

2 Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Currently, University of Colorado Boulder, 347 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA

3 Department of Biological Science, California State Polytechnic University, 3801 W. Temple Ave, Pomona, CA 91768, USA

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BMC Genetics 2014, 15:83  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-15-83

Published: 14 July 2014



The SPE-8 group gene products transduce the signal for spermatid activation initiated by extracellular zinc in C. elegans. Mutations in the spe-8 group genes result in hermaphrodite-derived spermatids that cannot activate to crawling spermatozoa, although spermatids from mutant males activate through a pathway induced by extracellular TRY-5 protease present in male seminal fluid.


Here, we identify SPE-8 as a member of a large family of sperm-expressed non-receptor-like protein-tyrosine kinases. A rescuing SPE-8::GFP translational fusion reporter localizes to the plasma membrane in all spermatogenic cells from the primary spermatocyte stage through spermatids. Once spermatids become activated to spermatozoa, the reporter moves from the plasma membrane to the cytoplasm. Mutations in the spe-8 group genes spe-12, spe-19, and spe-27 disrupt localization of the reporter to the plasma membrane, while localization appears near normal in a spe-29 mutant background.


These results suggest that the SPE-8 group proteins form a functional complex localized at the plasma membrane, and that SPE-8 is correctly positioned only when all members of the SPE-8 group are present, with the possible exception of SPE-29. Further, SPE-8 is released from the membrane when the activation signal is transduced into the spermatid.

Caenorhabditis elegans; Spermatogenesis; Sperm activation; spe-8; Signal transduction