Epididymis seleno-independent glutathione peroxidase 5 maintains sperm DNA integrity in mice

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The mammalian epididymis provides sperm with an environment that promotes their maturation and protects them from external stresses. For example, it harbors an array of antioxidants, including non-conventional glutathione peroxidase 5 (GPX5), to protect them from oxidative stress. To explore the role of GPX5 in the epididymis, we generated mice that lack epididymal expression of the enzyme. Histological analyses of Gpx5–/– epididymides and sperm cells revealed no obvious defects. Furthermore, there were no apparent differences in the fertilization rate of sexually mature Gpx5–/– male mice compared with WT male mice. However, a higher incidence of miscarriages and developmental defects were observed when WT female mice were mated with Gpx5-deficient males over 1 year old compared with WT males of the same age. Flow cytometric analysis of spermatozoa recovered from Gpx5-null and WT male mice revealed that sperm DNA compaction was substantially lower in the cauda epididymides of Gpx5-null animals and that they suffered from DNA oxidative attacks. Real-time PCR analysis of enzymatic scavengers expressed in the mouse epididymis indicated that the cauda epididymidis epithelium of Gpx5-null male mice mounted an antioxidant response to cope with an excess of ROS. These observations suggest that GPX5 is a potent antioxidant scavenger in the luminal compartment of the mouse cauda epididymidis that protects spermatozoa from oxidative injuries that could compromise their integrity and, consequently, embryo viability.

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