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Background: Ubiquitination is a post-translational modification required for a number of physiological functions regulating protein homeostasis, such as protein degradation. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) quality control system recognizes and degrades proteins no longer needed in the ER through the ubiquitin–proteasome pathway. E2 and E3 enzymes containing a transmembrane domain have been shown to function in ER quality control. The ER transmembrane protein UBE2J1 is a E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme reported to be essential for spermiogenesis at the elongating spermatid stage. Spermatids from Ube2j1 KO male mice are believed to have defects in the dislocation step of ER quality control. However, associated E3 ubiquitin-protein ligases that function during spermatogenesis remain unknown. Results: We identified four evolutionarily conserved testis-specific E3 ubiquitin-protein ligases [RING finger protein 133 (Rnf133); RING finger protein 148 (Rnf148); RING finger protein 151 (Rnf151); and Zinc finger SWIM-type containing 2 (Zswim2)]. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, we generated and analyzed the fertility of mutant mice with null alleles for each of these E3-encoding genes, as well as double and triple knockout (KO) mice. Male fertility, male reproductive organ, and sperm-associated parameters were analyzed in detail. Fecundity remained largely unaffected in Rnf148, Rnf151, and Zswim2 KO males; however, Rnf133 KO males displayed severe subfertility. Additionally, Rnf133 KO sperm exhibited abnormal morphology and reduced motility. Ultrastructural analysis demonstrated that cytoplasmic droplets were retained in Rnf133 KO spermatozoa. Although Rnf133 and Rnf148 encode paralogous genes that are chromosomally linked and encode putative ER transmembrane E3 ubiquitin-protein ligases based on their protein structures, there was limited functional redundancy of these proteins. In addition, we identified UBE2J1 as an E2 ubiquitin-conjugating protein that interacts with RNF133. Conclusions: Our studies reveal that RNF133 is a testis-expressed E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase that plays a critical role for sperm function during spermiogenesis. Based on the presence of a transmembrane domain in RNF133 and its interaction with the ER containing E2 protein UBE2J1, we hypothesize that these ubiquitin-regulatory proteins function together in ER quality control during spermatogenesis.
Nozawa, K., Fujihara, Y., Devlin, D. J., Deras, R. E., Kent, K., Larina, I. V., … Matzuk, M. M. (2022). The testis-specific E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF133 is required for fecundity in mice. BMC Biology, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12915-022-01368-2
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