Glycoproteins on the plasma membrane of testicular and cauda epididymidal spermatozoa have been labeled with galactose oxidase/NaB [3H]4 and sodium metaperiodate/NaB[3H]4, followed by analysis on SDS polyacrylamide gels. The major glycoprotein labeling on testicular spermatozoa has a molecular weight 110,000 whereas on cauda epididymidal spermatozoa greater than 90% of the radio-label is incorporated into proteins of molecular weight 32,000. These 32,000-mol wt X proteins are homologous with proteins of similar molecular weight purified from the epididymal secretion and which have been shown previously to be synthesized in the caput epididymidis under hormonal control. Immunofluorescence revealed that the 32,000-mol wt proteins are present on the flagellum of mature but not immature spermatozoa and that they have a patchy distribution suggesting that they are mobile within the plane of the membrane. The membrane-bound 32,000-mol wt proteins possess hydrophobic domains as revealed by charge-shift electrophoresis and they also label with a lipophilic photoaffinity probe suggesting that they are in contact with the lipid bilayer. The evidence indicates that there is a considerable reorganization of the molecular structure of the plasma membrane of spermatozoa during maturation in the epididymis and that some of the changes are brought about by a direct interaction with epididymal secretory proteins.

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