Epididymosomes are small membranous vesicles secreted by epithelial cells within the luminal compartment of the epididymis. In bovine, many proteins are associated with epididymosomes, and some of them, such as the glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored protein P25b, macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), and aldose reductase (AKR1B1), are transferred to spermatozoa during the epididymal maturation process. P25b is associated with detergent-resistant membrane (DRM) domains of epididymal spermatozoa, whereas MIF and AKR1B1 are cytosolic proteins associated with detergent-soluble fractions. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that DRM domains are also present in the epididymosomes and that P25b DRM-associated proteins in these vesicles are transferred to the DRMs of spermatozoa. The presence of DRMs in epididymosomes was confirmed by their insolubility in cold Triton X-100 and their low buoyant density in sucrose gradient. Furthermore, DRMs isolated from epididymosomes are characterized by the exclusive presence of ganglioside GM1 and by high levels of cholesterol and sphingomyelin. Biochemical analysis indicated that P25b is linked to DRM in epididymosomes, whereas MIF and AKR1B1 are completely excluded from these membrane domains. Proteolytic treatment of epididymosomes and immunoblotting studies showed that P25b is affected by trypsin or pronase proteolysis. In contrast, MIF and AKR1B1 are not degraded by proteases, suggesting that they are localized within epididymosomes. Interaction studies between epididymosomes and epididymal spermatozoa demonstrated that P25b is transferred from the DRM of epididymosomes to the DRM of the caput epididymal spermatozoa as a GPI-anchored protein. Together, these data suggest that specific localization and compartmentalization of proteins in the epididymosomes coordinate the association of epididymal proteins with the different functional structures of spermatozoa.
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Vol. 80 • No. 5