We have found that the rat testis contains a cell surface galactosyl receptor that is antigenically related to the minor species of rat liver asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGP-r) and has binding affinity for galactose coupled to agarose. In immunoblotting experiments, rat testis galactosyl receptor (RTG-r) is recognized by antiserum raised against the minor ASGP-r species of rat liver (designated rat hepatic lectin-2/3, RHL-2/3). Antiserum raised against the major species RHL-1 does not recognize an antigenic protein equivalent to RTG-r. Triton X-100-extracted rat liver and testes preparations fractionated by affinity chromatography on galactose-agarose and resolved by SDS-PAGE under reducing conditions, show that rat liver contains both the major (RHL-1) and minor (RHL-2/3) ASGP-r species whereas rat testis displays only a receptor species comigrating with RHL-2/3. RTG-r was present throughout testicular development. The receptor was found in seminiferous tubules, cultured Sertoli and spermatogenic cells, and epididymal sperm. Indirect immunofluorescent studies show RHL-2/3-like immunoreactivity on the surface of Sertoli cell, meiotic prophase spermatocytes, spermatids, and epididymal sperm. In spermatids and sperm, the immunoreactivity is restricted to the plasma membrane overlying the dorsal portion of the head. Because of RTG-r has galactose binding affinity, is present on surfaces of Sertoli and developing meiotic and postmeiotic spermatogenic cells, and overlies a region of the intact acrosome on epididymal sperm, RTG-r may have a role in spermatogenesis and in events leading to sperm-egg recognition.

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