Tyrosine phosphorylation, thiol status, and protein tyrosine phosphatase in rat epididymal spermatozoa

Judith Seligman, Yehudit Zipser, Nechama S. Kosower*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sperm thiol oxidation and the ability to undergo protein tyrosine phosphorylation are associated with the acquisition of sperm motility and fertilizing ability during passage of spermatozoa through the epididymis. Phosphotyrosine levels in various cells are controlled by tyrosine kinase versus phosphatase, with the latter known to be inhibited by oxidation. In the present paper we examine whether changes in thiol status during sperm maturation affect rat sperm protein phosphotyrosine levels and protein phosphotyrosine phosphatase (PTP) activity. Tyrosine phosphorylation, as demonstrated by immunoblotting (IB), was significantly increased in several sperm tail proteins during maturation in the epididymis. Sperm thiol oxidation with diamide enhanced tail protein phosphorylation; reduction of disulfides with dithiothreitol diminished phosphorylation. In the sperm head, a moderate increase in tyrosine phosphorylation was accompanied by altered localization of phosphotyrosine proteins during maturation. Blocking of thiols and PTP activity with Nethylmaleimide led to increased tyrosine phosphorylation of protamine in caput sperm heads. Several PTP bands were identified by IB. In the caput spermatozoa, a prominent level of the 50 kDa band was present, whereas in the cauda spermatozoa a very low level of the 50 kDa band was found. PTP activity, measured by using p-nitrophenyl phosphate as a substrate, was significantly higher in the caput spermatozoa (high thiol content) than in the cauda spermatozoa (low thiol content). Our results show that PTP activity is correlated with sperm thiol status and suggest that tyrosine phosphorylation of sperm proteins during sperm maturation is promoted by thiol oxidation and diminished PTP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1009-1015
Number of pages7
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Epididymis
  • Gamete biology
  • Phosphatases
  • Sperm maturation


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