Cancer-testis antigens (CTAs) represent potential targets for cancer immunotherapy because these proteins are widely distributed in tumors but not in normal tissues, except testes. In this paper, we identify homology of the CTA CTp11 with SPAN-X (sperm protein associated with the nucleus mapped to the X chromosome). On two-dimensional Western blots of human sperm extracts, SPAN-X antibodies recognized 19 spots ranging from 20 to 23 kDa with isoelectric points from 5.0 to 5.5. Differential extraction of spermatozoa demonstrated that the SPAN-X protein is highly insoluble. Only 50% of ejaculated spermatozoa exhibited SPAN-X immunofluorescent staining. Dual localization of the sex chromosomes and the SPAN-X protein demonstrated that an equal number of X- and Y-bearing spermatozoa exhibited SPAN-X staining. In transfected mammalian CV1 cells, the SPAN-Xa and SPAN-Xb proteins were localized to the nucleus and cytoplasm, respectively, by indirect immunofluorescence. On immunoblots of CV1 cells, the SPAN-Xa protein migrated at 15–20 kDa, whereas the SPAN-Xb protein migrated at a higher molecular weight of 21–22 kDa. The SPAN-X protein was ultrastructurally associated with nuclear vacuoles and the redundant nuclear envelope. SPAN-X is the first protein specifically localized to these poorly characterized structures of the mammalian sperm nucleus and provides a unique biochemical marker for investigation of their function in spermatozoa as well as the role of SPAN-X/CTp11 in human tumors.
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