The carbohydrate structure of DEFB126, the major component of the cynomolgus macaque sperm plasma membrane glycocalyx

A. I. Yudin, C. A. Treece, Theodore L Tollner, J. W. Overstreet, G. N. Cherr

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40 Scopus citations


Based on the amino-acid sequence of the macaque epididymal secretory protein, ESP 13.2 (Q9BEE3/AJ236909), it has now been classified as β-defensin DEFB126. DEFB126 is one of the five β-defensins with genes that are clustered along chromosome 20p13, and all five proteins have an extended carboxy terminus that continues beyond the 6-cysteine β-defensin core region. This 60-amino acid carboxyl tail extension of the DEFB126 molecule is extraordinarily rich in threonine and serine (40%), many of which appear to be likely candidates for having O-glycosylation. DEFB126 has been shown to coat the entire surface of cynomolgus macaque sperm as they move through the corpus/caudal region of the epididymis. It is a major glycocalyx barrier to the external environment and is retained until the completion of capacitation. Sperm exposed to fluorescein-conjugated poly-L-lysine or Alexa488-histone showed a very uniform fluorescent labeling pattern over the entire sperm surface, almost identical to that observed with anti-DEFB126 Ig label. Sperm surface components that were released following treatment with caffeine/cAMP (in vitro capacitation) were blotted and probed with three different lectins which are known to recognize terminal sialic acid residues, and all three recognized the 35 kDa DEFB126 band. Neuraminidase treatment of sperm shifted the molecular weight of DEFB126 from 34-36 kDa to approximately 38-40 kDa and removed or greatly inhibited sialic acid-specific lectin recognition. O-Glycanase treatment alone was ineffective at removal of the oligosaccharides, but prior treatment with neuraminidase was sufficient to enable the O-glycanase treatment to effectively change the apparent molecular weight to 10 kDa, confirming that a major portion of the molecular mass is associated with the carbohydrate portion. Western blots of neuraminidase-treated DEFB126 showed strong recognition with a number of lectins that identify β-galactose and also lectins that recognize the N-acetylgalactosamine-serine/threonine, the proposed connection site of O-glycosylation. All of the lectins that recognized DEFB126 on Western blots were used to fluorescently probe sperm. The fluorescent patterns that were observed with poly-L-lysine, Alexa488-histone, sialic acid-specific lectins, and galactose-specific lectins showed even distributions over the entire sperm surface and the patterns were identical to sperm labeled with anti-DEFB126 Ig, and all but the antibody did not recognize neuraminidase-treated sperm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-129
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Membrane Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • β-Defensin
  • DEFB126
  • Glycocalyx
  • Sialic acid
  • Sperm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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