Prolactin (PRL) has long been known to be a hormone responsible for mammary gland development and lactation in females, whereas its role in males is still unclear. Thus, we investigated male mouse (m) PRL protein and mRNA expression in spermatozoa at various differentiation stages in the testes. Quantitative RT-PCR and in situ hybridization detected the expression of PRL not only in Leydig cells but also in germ cells, in particular in spermatogonia. The nucleotide sequence of testis PRL mRNA was the same as that in the pituitary. The mPRL was detected in Leydig cells and in round and elongated spermatids of the testes by immunohistochemistry. Immunoblotting detected 2 forms of mPRL in the testes, one form was 23-kDa PRL, and the other form was smaller than full-length PRL. Based on these results, we focused on N-terminal cleaved PRL to determine its involvement in spermatogenesis. Immunohistochemistry using two sets of antibodies, one that recognized full-length PRL and Nterminal cleaved PRL and another that recognized full-length PRL and C-terminal cleaved PRL, suggested that intact PRL was localized in the nucleus of round spermatids, while N-terminal cleaved PRL variants were localized in the Golgi apparatus of the sperrmatid nuclei of round spermatids, cytoplasms of elongated spermatids and in the spermatozoa tails. These findings suggest that PRL is ectopically expressed in the spermiogenesis and spermatogenesis and that cleaved PRL variants were localized in the Golgi apparatus of spermatids and in spermatozoa tails.
- Ectopic expression