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Prothymosin alpha expression in the vertebrate testis: a comparative review

  • Massimo Venditti (a1) and Sergio Minucci (a2)


Prothymosin alpha (PTMA) is a highly acidic, intrinsically disordered protein that was first extracted from rat thymus and characterized as an immunogenic factor but soon detected in a variety of mammalian tissues. The presence of a nuclear localization signal and the adoption of a peculiar random-coil conformation are among the reasons behind its interaction with several molecular partners, hence at this time PTMA is known to be a very conserved and widely expressed molecule, involved in numerous and diverse biological processes. Only few studies have tried to weigh its possible involvement in reproduction, specifically in male gametogenesis: first reports have suggested that PTMA might be associated with the proliferative and early-meiotic phases of mammal spermatogenesis. Some years later, a comparative project on vertebrate spermatogenesis reported the isolation, for the first time, of prothymosin in a non-mammalian species, the amphibian Pelophylax esculentus. PTMA transcript and protein are localized in the germinal compartment, from spermatocytes to spermatozoa. A congruent pattern has been highlighted in studies on the fish Torpedo marmorata and Danio rerio, and in the mammal Rattus norvegicus, in which the expression of PTMA has been found in meiotic and post-meiotic germ cells inside testicular cysts and tubules. Moreover, its presence has been confirmed in rat and human spermatozoa (associated with the acrosome); its retention in the apical region of the head after the acrosome reaction revealed a striking conservation of the pattern during phylogenesis and suggested a possible role for the protein in gametogenesis and in fertilization.


Corresponding author

All correspondence to: Sergio Minucci. Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Università degli Studi della Campania ‘Luigi Vanvitelli’ 80138, Napoli, Italy. Tel: +39 0815665829. E-mail:


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