The mammalian epididymis provides sperm with an environment that promotes their maturation and protects them from external stresses. For example, it harbors an array of antioxidants, including non-conventional glutathione peroxidase 5 (GPX5), to protect them from oxidative stress. To explore the role of GPX5 in the epididymis, we generated mice that lack epididymal expression of the enzyme. Histological analyses of Gpx5–/– epididymides and sperm cells revealed no obvious defects. Furthermore, there were no apparent differences in the fertilization rate of sexually mature Gpx5–/– male mice compared with WT male mice. However, a higher incidence of miscarriages and developmental defects were observed when WT female mice were mated with Gpx5-deficient males over 1 year old compared with WT males of the same age. Flow cytometric analysis of spermatozoa recovered from Gpx5-null and WT male mice revealed that sperm DNA compaction was substantially lower in the cauda epididymides of Gpx5-null animals and that they suffered from DNA oxidative attacks. Real-time PCR analysis of enzymatic scavengers expressed in the mouse epididymis indicated that the cauda epididymidis epithelium of Gpx5-null male mice mounted an antioxidant response to cope with an excess of ROS. These observations suggest that GPX5 is a potent antioxidant scavenger in the luminal compartment of the mouse cauda epididymidis that protects spermatozoa from oxidative injuries that could compromise their integrity and, consequently, embryo viability.
Eléonore Chabory, Christelle Damon, Alain Lenoir, Gary Kauselmann, Hedrun Kern, Branko Zevnik, Catherine Garrel, Fabrice Saez, Rémi Cadet, Joelle Henry-Berger, Michael Schoor, Ulrich Gottwald, Ursula Habenicht, Joël R. Drevet, Patrick Vernet