Spermatogenesis is a complex cell differentiation process that includes marked genetic, cellular, functional and structural changes. It requires tight regulation, because disturbances in any of the spermatogenic processes would lead to fertility deficiencies as well as disorders in offspring. To increase our knowledge of signal transduction during sperm development, we carried out a large-scale identification of the phosphorylation events that occur in the human male gonad. Metal oxide affinity chromatography using TiO 2 combined with LC-MS/MS was conducted to profile the phosphoproteome of adult human testes with full spermatogenesis. A total of 8187 phosphopeptides derived from 2661 proteins were identified, resulting in the most complete report of human testicular phosphoproteins to date. Phosphorylation events were enriched in proteins functionally related to spermatogenesis, as well as to highly active processes in the male gonad, such as transcriptional and translational regulation, cytoskeleton organization, DNA packaging, cell cycle and apoptosis. Moreover, 174 phosphorylated kinases were identified. The most active human protein kinases in the testis were predicted both by the number of phosphopeptide spectra identified and the phosphorylation status of the kinase activation loop. The potential function of cyclin-dependent kinase 12 (CDK12) and p21-activated kinase 4 (PAK4) has been explored by in silico protein-protein interaction analysis, immunodetection in testicular tissue, and a functional assay in a human embryonal carcinoma cell line. The colocalization of CDK12 with Golgi markers suggests a potential crucial role of this protein kinase during sperm formation. PAK4 has been found expressed in human spermatogonia, and a role in embryonal carcinoma cell response to apoptosis has been observed. Together, our protein discovery analysis confirms that phosphoregulation by protein kinases is highly active in sperm differentiation and opens a window to detailed characterization and validation of potential targets for the development of drugs modulating male fertility and tumor behavior.
Castillo, J., Knol, J. C., Korver, C. M., Piersma, S. R., Pham, T. V., de Goeij-de Haas, R. R., ... Jansen, B. J. H. (2019). Human testis phosphoproteome reveals kinases as potential targets in spermatogenesis and testicular cancer. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, 18, S132-S144. https://doi.org/10.1074/mcp.RA118.001278