• RNA-binding protein Maca is crucial for gigantic male fertility factor gene expression, spermatogenesis, and male fertility, in Drosophila.

RNA-binding protein Maca is crucial for gigantic male fertility factor gene expression, spermatogenesis, and male fertility, in Drosophila.

PLoS genetics (2021-06-29)
Li Zhu, Ryuya Fukunaga

During spermatogenesis, the process in which sperm for fertilization are produced from germline cells, gene expression is spatiotemporally highly regulated. In Drosophila, successful expression of extremely large male fertility factor genes on Y-chromosome spanning some megabases due to their gigantic intron sizes is crucial for spermatogenesis. Expression of such extremely large genes must be challenging, but the molecular mechanism that allows it remains unknown. Here we report that a novel RNA-binding protein Maca, which contains two RNA-recognition motifs, is crucial for this process. maca null mutant male flies exhibited a failure in the spermatid individualization process during spermatogenesis, lacked mature sperm, and were completely sterile, while maca mutant female flies were fully fertile. Proteomics and transcriptome analyses revealed that both protein and mRNA abundance of the gigantic male fertility factor genes kl-2, kl-3, and kl-5 (kl genes) are significantly decreased, where the decreases of kl-2 are particularly dramatic, in maca mutant testes. Splicing of the kl-3 transcripts was also dysregulated in maca mutant testes. All these physiological and molecular phenotypes were rescued by a maca transgene in the maca mutant background. Furthermore, we found that in the control genetic background, Maca is exclusively expressed in spermatocytes in testes and enriched at Y-loop A/C in the nucleus, where the kl-5 primary transcripts are localized. Our data suggest that Maca increases transcription processivity, promotes successful splicing of gigantic introns, and/or protects transcripts from premature degradation, of the kl genes. Our study identified a novel RNA-binding protein Maca that is crucial for successful expression of the gigantic male fertility factor genes, spermatogenesis, and male fertility.

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