Position-dependent interactions of Y-box protein 2 (YBX2) with mRNA enable mRNA storage in round spermatids by repressing mRNA translation and blocking translation-dependent mRNA decay

Many mRNAs encoding proteins needed for the construction of the specialized organelles of spermatozoa are stored as translationally repressed, free messenger ribonucleoproteins in round spermatids, to be actively translated in elongating and elongated spermatids.

The factors that repress translation in round spermatids, however, have been elusive. Two lines of evidence implicate the highly abundant and well-known translational repressor, Y-box protein 2 (YBX2), as a critical factor: First, the protamine 1 (Prm1) and sperm-mitochondria cysteine-rich protein (Smcp) mRNAs are prematurely recruited onto polysomes in Ybx2-knockout mouse round spermatids. Second, mutations in 3' untranslated region (3'UTR) cis-elements that abrogate YBX2 binding activate translation of Prm1 and Smcp mRNAs in round spermatids of transgenic mice. The abundance of YBX2 and its affinity for variable sequences, however, raise questions of how YBX2 targets specific mRNAs for repression. Mutations to the Prm1 and Smcp mRNAs in transgenic mice reveal that strong repression in round spermatids requires YBX2 binding sites located near the 3' ends of their 3'UTRs as locating the same sites in upstream positions produce negligible repression. This location-dependence implies that the assembly of repressive complexes is nucleated by adjacent cis-elements that enable cooperative interactions of YBX2 with co-factors. The available data suggest that, in vertebrates, YBX2 has the important role of coordinating the storage of translationally repressed mRNAs in round spermatids by inhibiting translational activity and the degradation of transcripts via translation-dependent deadenylation. These insights should facilitiate future experiments designed to unravel how YBX2 targets mRNAs for repression in round spermatids and how mutations in the YBX2 gene cause infertility in humans. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Molecular reproduction and development. 2016 Jan 16 [Epub ahead of print]

Kenneth C Kleene

Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd. , Boston, MA, 02125-3393.