Defective pituitary function and gamete interactions in beta-1,4-galactosyltransferase null mice

Qingxian Lu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Despite much attention, the function of oligosaccharide chains of glycoproteins remains largely unknown. Our understanding of oligosaccharide function in vivo has been limited to the use of reagents and targeted mutations that eliminate entire oligosaccharide chains. However, most, if not all biological functions for oligosaccharides have been attributed to specific terminal sequences on these oligosaccharides, yet there have been few studies to examine the consequences of modifying terminal oligosaccharide structures in vivo. To address this issue, mice were created bearing a targeted mutation in $\beta$1,4-galactosyltransferase, an enzyme responsible for elaboration of many of the proposed biologically-active carbohydrate epitopes. Most galactosyltransferase-null mice died within the first few weeks after birth and were characterized by stunted growth, thin skin, sparse hair, and dehydration. In addition, the adrenal cortices were poorly stratified and spermatogenesis was delayed. The few surviving adults had puffy skin (myxedema), difficulty delivering pups at birth (dystocia), and failed to lactate (agalactosis). All of these defects are consistant with endocrine insufficiency, which was confirmed by markedly decreased levels of serum thyroxine. The anterior pituitary gland appeared functionally delayed in newborn mutant mice, since the constituent cells were quiescent and nonsecretory, unlike that of control littermates. However, the anterior pituitary acquired a normal secretory phenotype during neonatal development, although it remained abnormally small and its glycoprotein hormones were devoid of $\beta$1,4-galactosyl residues. These results support in vitro studies suggesting that incomplete glycosylation of pituitary hormones leads to the creation of hormone antagonists that down regulate subsequent endocrine function producing polyglandular endocrine insufficiency. More surprisingly, the fact that some mice survive this neonatal period indicates the presence of a previously unrecognized compensatory pathway for glycoprotein hormone glycosylation and/or action. In addition to its well-studied biosynthetic function in the Golgi complex, a GalTase isoform is also expressed on the sperm surface where it functions as a gamete receptor during fertilization by binding to its oligosaccharide ligand on the egg coat glycoprotein, ZP3. Aggregation of GalTase by multivalent ZP3 oligosaccharides activates a G-protein cascade leading to the acrosome reaction. Although GalTase-null males are fertile, the mutant sperm bind less ZP3 than wild-type sperm, and are unable to undergo the acrosome reaction in response to either zona pellucida glycoproteins or to anti-GalTase anti-serum, as do wild-type sperm. However, mutant and wild-type sperm undergo the acrosome reaction normally in response to calcium ionophore which bypasses the requirement for ZP3 binding. Interestingly, the phenotype of the GalTase-null sperm is reciprocal to that of sperm that overexpress surface GalTAse and which bind more ZP3 leading to precocious acrosome reactions. These results confirm that GalTase functions as at least one of the sperm receptors for ZP3, and that GalTase participates in the ZP3-induced signal transduction pathway during zona pellucida-induced acrosome reactions.

Subject Area

Genetics|Cellular biology|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Lu, Qingxian, "Defective pituitary function and gamete interactions in beta-1,4-galactosyltransferase null mice" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9717013.