In oviparous vertebrates such as the marine teleost gilthead seabream, water and fluid homeostasis associated with testicular physiology and the external activation of spermatozoa is potentially mediated by multiple aquaporins. To test this hypothesis, we isolated five novel members of the aquaporin superfamily from gilthead seabream and developed paralog-specific antibodies to localize the cellular sites of protein expression in the male reproductive tract. Together with phylogenetic classification, functional characterization of four of the newly isolated paralogs, Aqp0a, -7, -8b, and -9b, demonstrated that they were water permeable, while Aqp8b was also permeable to urea, and Aqp7 and -9b were permeable to glycerol and urea. Immunolocalization experiments indicated that up to seven paralogous aquaporins are differentially expressed in the seabream testis: Aqp0a and -9b in Sertoli and Leydig cells, respectively; Aqp1ab, -7, and -10b from spermatogonia to spermatozoa; and Aqp1aa and -8b in spermatids and sperm. In the efferent duct, only Aqp10b was found in the luminal epithelium. Ejaculated spermatozoa showed a segregated spatial distribution of five aquaporins: Aqp1aa and -7 in the entire flagellum or the head, respectively, and Aqp1ab, -8b, and -10b both in the head and the anterior tail. The combination of immunofluorescence microscopy and biochemical fractionation of spermatozoa indicated that Aqp10b and phosphorylated Aqp1ab are rapidly translocated to the head plasma membrane upon activation, whereas Aqp8b accumulates in the mitochondrion of the spermatozoa. In contrast, Aqp1aa and -7 remained unchanged. These data reveal that aquaporin expression in the teleost testis shares conserved features of the mammalian system, and they suggest that the piscine channels may play different roles in water and solute transport during spermatogenesis, sperm maturation and nutrition, and the initiation and maintenance of sperm motility.
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Vol. 89 • No. 2