A basic protein fraction, migrating as a single band in acetic acid-urea gel, distinct from histones, was isolated from mouse sperm collected from vasa deferentia and caudae epididymides and was used to immunize female rabbits. The presence of antibodies to the mouse sperm protein (MSP) in the rabbit antisera was demonstrated by a cytoimmunofluorescence procedure using the cells of origin of the antigenic protein, the mature mouse sperm. The specificity of the antisera was verified by fluid and gel precipitation tests and by crossed immunoelectrophoresis. The latter procedure demonstrated the presence of two antigen-antibody systems, consonant with earlier reports that the basic chromosomal protein of mouse sperm is heterogeneous. MSP antigen in situ was recognized by the specific antibodies of the rabbit antisera only after the smear of mature sperm was treated with either of two reducing agents: 2-mercaptoethanol or dithiothreitol. However, when the immunofluorescence procedure was applied to untreated smears of mouse testicular cells, spermatids of all stages from 1 to 14-15 were positive, while spermatocytes, stage 16 spermatids and spermatozoa were negative. After treatment of testes smears with reducing agent, only spermatocytes remained negative. Those observations indicate the following: (a) MSP is immunogenic in a heterologous species; (b) its antigenic sites are detectable in spermatozoa and spermatids of all stages, but not in primary spermatocytes; (c) those antigenic sites become masked at about stage 15 of spermiogenesis and may be unmasked by treatment with a reducing agent. The interpretation is made, therefore, that one or more components of MSP are assembled at the beginning of spermiogenesis and undergo an alteration in the final intratesticular stage of spermatid maturation. That alteration may be presumed to be the formation of disulfide linkages between the cysteine residues.

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