The different mRNA isoforms of the mouse Sox17 gene were isolated from adult mouse testis cDNAs. One form (referred to as form Sox17) encodes an Sry-related protein of 419 amino acids containing a single high mobility group box near the NH2-terminus, while the other form (referred to as form t-Sox17) shows a unique mRNA isoform of the Sox17 gene with a partial deletion of the HMG box region. Analysis of genomic DNA revealed that these two isoforms were produced at least by alternative splicing of the exon corresponding to the 5' untranslated region and NH2-terminal 102 amino acids. RNA analyses in the testis revealed that form Sox17 began at the pachytene spermatocyte stage and was highly accumulated in round spermatids. Protein analyses revealed that t-Sox17 isoforms, as well as Sox17 isoforms, were translated into the protein products in the testis, although the amount of t-Sox17 products is lower in comparison to the high accumulation of t-Sox17 mRNA. By the electrophoretic mobility-shift assay and the random selection assay using recombinant Sox17 and t-Sox17 proteins, Sox17 protein is a DNA-binding protein with a similar sequence specificity to Sry and the other members of Sox family proteins, while t-Sox17 shows no apparent DNA-binding activity. Moreover, by a cotransfection experiment using a luciferase reporter gene, Sox17 could stimulate transcription through its binding site, but t-Sox17 had little effect on reporter gene expression. Thus, these findings suggest that Sox17 may function as a transcriptional activator in the premeiotic germ cells, and that a splicing switch into t-Sox17 may lead to the loss of its function in the postmeiotic germ cells.

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