Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Ralph G. Meyer


Ralph G. Meyer


Clay Isom


Kerry A. Rood


During spermatogenesis, histones are largely replaced by transition proteins and protamines in normal stallions. Incomplete nucleoprotein exchange results in the abnormal retention of histones and transition proteins, which is an indicator of poor sperm quality. Equine nucleoprotein exchange has not previously been investigated in detail, so that equine sperm chromatin quality problems, which are often responsible for poor breeding performance of stallions, are not well understood. In order to characterize chromatin remodeling events in stallion spermatogenesis and to identify proteins indicative of sperm chromatin defects, such as excessive amounts of histones, we identified antibodies that recognize equine testis-specific proteins of interest. Immunoblotting of testis and sperm protein lysates and immunofluorescence staining of histological tissue sections were used to identify candidate marker proteins of incomplete sperm chromatin maturation. Results of the study, which represents the first comprehensive characterization of the nucleoprotein exchange during spermatogenesis in the stallion, challenge the paradigm that the main function of histone H4 lysine (hyper-) acetylation (concomitant H4K5 and H4K8 acetylation) is to facilitate nucleosome ejection during spermatid nuclear elongation to allow for transition protein and protamine insertion into the chromatin.

That paradigm was based on observations in mice and rats where H4 acetylation in several lysine residues occurs just prior to or during nuclear elongation. In contrast, the equine data presented here show strong acetylation of H4 in K5, K8 and K12 positions immediately after meiosis in round spermatids, independent of nuclear transition protein 1 deposition. Furthermore, results of H4K16 acetylation analyses underline the importance of this mark, which is likely mediated by DNA damage signaling pathways, emphasizing the importance of DNA repair processes for the exchange of nucleoprotein exchange in spermiogenesis and therefore, in extension, for male fertility. In addition, a revised description of the equine spermatogenic cycle is proposed here that is better aligned with human, mouse and rat spermatogenesis. Finally, the testis-specific histone variant TH2B was identified as a potential quantitative marker of equine sperm quality.