Mammalian ZFY genes are located on the Y chromosome, and code putative transcription factors with 12–13 zinc fingers preceded by a large acidic (activating) domain. In mice, there are two genes, Zfy1 and Zfy2, which are expressed mainly in the testis. Their transcription increases in germ cells as they enter meiosis, both are silenced by meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI) during pachytene, and Zfy2 is strongly reactivated later in spermatids. Recently, we have shown that mouse Zfy2, but not Zfy1, is involved in triggering the apoptotic elimination of specific types of sex chromosomally aberrant spermatocytes. In humans, there is a single widely transcribed ZFY gene, and there is no evidence for a specific role in the testis. Here, we characterize ZFY transcription during spermatogenesis in mice and humans. In mice, we define a variety of Zfy transcripts, among which is a Zfy2 transcript that predominates in spermatids, and a Zfy1 transcript, lacking an exon encoding approximately half of the acidic domain, which predominates prior to MSCI. In humans, we have identified a major testis-specific ZFY transcript that encodes a protein with the same short acidic domain. This represents the first evidence that ZFY has a conserved function during human spermatogenesis. We further show that, in contrast to the full acidic domain, the short domain does not activate transcription in yeast, and we hypothesize that this explains the functional difference observed between Zfy1 and Zfy2 during mouse meiosis.
Fanny Decarpentrie; Nadège Vernet; Shantha K. Mahadevaiah; Guy Longepied; Eric Streichemberger; Isabelle Aknin-Seifer; Obah A. Ojarikre; Paul S. Burgoyne; Catherine Metzler-Guillemain; Michael J. Mitchell
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