Acquisition of fertilization ability by spermatozoa during epididymal transit occurs in part by the transfer of molecules from membranous vesicles called epididymosomes. Epididymosomes are heterogeneous in terms of both size and molecular composition. Exosomes and other related small membranous vesicles (30-120 nm) containing tetraspanin proteins on their surface are found in many biological fluids. In this study, we demonstrate that these vesicles are present in bovine cauda epididymal fluid as a subpopulation of epididymosomes. They contain tetraspanin CD9 in addition to other proteins involved in sperm maturation such as P25b, GliPr1L1, and MIF. In order to study the mechanism of protein transfer to sperm, DilC12-labeled unfractionated epididymosomes or CD9-positive microvesicles were coincubated with epididymal spermatozoa, and their transfer was evaluated by flow cytometry. CD9-positive microvesicles from epididymal fluid specifically transferred molecules to spermatozoa, whereas those prepared from blood were unable to do so. The CD9-positive microvesicles transferred molecules to the same sperm regions (acrosome and midpiece) as epididymosomes, with the same kinetics; however, the molecules were preferentially transferred to live sperm and, in contrast to epididymosomes, Zn(2+) did not demonstrate potentiated transfer. Tetraspanin CD9 was associated with other proteins on the membrane surface of CD9-positive microvesicles according to coimmunoprecipitation experiments. CD26 cooperated with CD9 in the molecular transfer to sperm since the amount of molecules transferred was significantly reduced in the presence of specific antibodies. In conclusion, CD9-positive microvesicles are present in bovine cauda epididymal fluid and transfer molecules to live maturing sperm in a tissue-specific manner that involves CD9 and CD26.
Caballero, J. N., Frenette, G., Belleannée, C., & Sullivan, R. (2013). CD9-Positive Microvesicles Mediate the Transfer of Molecules to Bovine Spermatozoa during Epididymal Maturation. PLoS ONE, 8(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0065364