Protein carboxyl-methylase (PCM), an enzyme known to be involved in exocytotic secretion and chemotaxis, has been studied in rat and rabbit spermatozoa. PCM activity and its substrate methyl acceptor protein(s) (MAP) were demonstrated in the supernate after solubilization of the sperm cell membrane by detergent (Triton X-100). A protein methylesterase that hydrolyzes methyl ester bonds created by PCM was demonstrated in rabbit but not in rat spermatozoa. This enzyme was not solubilized by nonionic detergent. The specific activities of PCM in rat spermatozoa from caput and cauda epididymis were similar and lower than that found in testis. By contrast, MAP substrates were low in testis and increased in parallel with sperm maturation in the epididymis. Multiple MAP were demonstrated in spermatozoa by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The pattern of these proteins was similar in spermatozoa from different portions of the reproductive tract. Fractionation of heads and tails of rat spermatozoa on sucrose gradients indicated that PCM was found exclusively in the tail fraction, whereas MAP was detected both in head and tail fractions. The presence of all the components of the protein carboxyl-methylation system in spermatozoa and the localization of PCM and some of its substrates in the sperm tail are consistent with their involvement in sperm cell motility.

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