The protein encoded by cancer/testis gene D40/AF15q14 is localized in spermatocytes, acrosomes of spermatids and ejaculated spermatozoa.
We have previously identified and cloned a human gene, D40, that is preferentially expressed in testis among normal organs, while it is widely expressed in various human tumor cell lines and primary tumors derived from different organs. In this report, we have examined the expression and localization of this protein in human testis with an antibody specific to D40 protein. In Western analyses, the anti-D40 antibody recognized a major band with a molecular mass of 300 kDa and a minor band of 250 kDa. These bands were not observed in the testis lysates from patients with Sertoli-cell-only syndrome and with Kleinfelter syndrome, who lack germ cells of the testis, indicating that D40 protein is expressed in the germ cells of normal testis. Immunohistochemical studies have revealed that D40 protein is highly expressed in spermatocytes and in the pre-acrosome of round spermatids. In the acrosome, D40 protein expression is observed not inside but outside the acrosome membrane. This is consistent with the finding that the amino-acid sequence at the amino terminal of the D40 protein lacks a hydrophobic signal peptide that is required for proteins to translocate to the membrane. Expression of D40 protein is observed in the acrosome of ejaculated spermatozoa as well, although the level is low compared with that in the pre-acrosome of spermatids. These results suggest that D40 protein plays important roles in spermatogenesis, especially in the formation and maintenance of the acrosome.