The cellular origin of a soluble phospholipid-binding protein (PBP) in rat testicular and epididymal secretions has been investigated genetically and immunologically. PBP is ubiquitous in tissue cytosols but is not present in blood serum, lymph or milk. The relatively large amounts present in cauda epididymal plasma (CEP) and rete testis fluid suggested therefore that it may be secreted specifically by these tissues. However, when PBP cDNAs from testis and epididymis were cloned and sequenced, they did not contain a signal peptide and only one size of transcript was obtained on Northern blots of RNAs from liver, brain, placenta, testis and epididymis. Moreover, PBP could not be detected in sperm-free CEP from castrated, androgen-stimulated animals or in medium from Sertoli cell cultures. Spermatozoa, on the other hand, contained significant amounts of PBP that could be solubilized by washing cells in dissociating reagents or high-salt solutions. These results indicate that, contrary to previous interpretations, PBP is not secreted by classical pathways in either the testis or epididymis but that its presence in CEP and rete testis fluid is attributable largely to release from spermatozoa. Thus, spermatozoa have a significant influence on the composition of CEP as well as on the secretory and absorptive activity of the epididymal epithelium. A possible role for PBP in membrane biogenesis and maintenance of antigen segregation in spermatozoa is discussed.

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