To discover causes of infertility and potential contraceptive targets, we used in silico subtraction and genomic database mining to identify conserved genes with germ cell-specific expression. In silico subtraction identified an expressed sequence tag (EST) present exclusively in a newborn mouse ovary library. The full-length cDNA sequence corresponding to this EST encodes a novel protein containing four ankyrin (ANK) repeats, a sterile-α motif (SAM), and a putative basic leucine zipper (bZIP) domain. Northern blot and semiquantitative RT-PCR analyses demonstrated that the mRNA is exclusively expressed in the mouse testis and ovary. The expression sites were localized by in situ hybridization to pachytene spermatocytes in the testis and oocytes in the ovary. Immunohistochemistry showed that the novel protein is localized to the cytoplasm in pachytene spermatocytes and early spermatids, oocytes at all stages of oogenesis, and in early preimplantation embryos. Based on its germ cell-specific expression and the presence of ANK, SAM, and basic leucine zipper domains, we have termed this novel protein GASZ. The mouse Gasz gene, which consists of 13 exons and spans 60 kb, is located on chromosome 6 between the Wnt2 and cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (Cftr) genes. Using genomic database mining, orthologous genes encoding GASZ were identified in the rat, cow, baboon, chimpanzee, and human. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that the GASZ proteins are highly conserved among these species. Human and mouse GASZ proteins share 85.3% amino acid identity, and human and chimpanzee GASZ proteins differ by only 3 out of 475 amino acids. In humans, the GASZ gene resides on chromosome 7 and is similarly composed of 13 exons. Because both ANK repeats and the SAM domain function as protein-protein interaction modules that mediate signal transduction cascades in some systems, GASZ may represent an important cytoplasmic signal transducer that mediates protein-protein interactions during germ cell maturation in both males and females and during preimplantation embryogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology