Monoclonal antibodies directed against four different polypeptide epitopes on the Mr~94, 000 steroid-binding subunit of the rat liver cytosolic glucocorticoid receptor (GcR) were used to probe Western blots of epididymal spermatozoa from rats and mice. Two sperm polypeptides with apparent molecular weights of 94, 000 (indistinguishable in size from the liver GcR subunit) and 150, 000 reacted with these antibodies. Other polypeptides that are present in a wide variety of somatic cells [lamin-A, -B, and -C; topoisomerase-I; poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase; the 62-kilodalton internal nuclear matrix protein; the nucleolar protein B23; and histone HI] could not be detected in these preparations of spermatozoa, thus appearing to rule out contamination by somatic cells. Rat and mouse pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids contained much lower amounts of the Mr-94, 000 and 150, 000 polypeptides. These results suggested that the steroid-binding subunit of the GcR might be accumulated late in spermatogenesis. Consistent with this view, a 6-kilobase mRNA (identical in size to a mRNA detected in mouse somatic cell lines) was detected when Northern blots of mouse round spermatid RNA were probed with a cDNA to the steroid-binding GcR subunit. Although the results described above suggest the presence of GcR in rodent sperm, high affinity binding of glucocorticoids to epididymal sperm could not be detected in a whole cell binding assay. Further analysis revealed that the Mr~90, 000 heat shock protein (hsp90), a component reportedly required for high affinity ligand binding to the GcR, was present in early germ cells, but absent from rodent epididymal sperm. These results suggest that the Mr -94, 000 steroid-binding subunit of the GcR and an immunologically related M, -150, 000 polypeptide are specifically accumulated during the later stages of rodent spermatogenesis, but are not assembled into receptor complexes capable of binding steroid. In addition, these results support the view that hsp90 is required for high affinity binding of glucocorticoids to the Mr~94, 000 GcR sub-unit in intact cells.
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