Epididymal maturation is essential for mammalian sperm to develop fertility. Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), a lectin which specifically recognizes N-acetyl-glucosamine and sialic acid, was used to investigate membrane characteristics of epididymal sperm in the mouse. Histochemical and cytochemical localization revealed that WGA-binding sites were increased as sperm became mature. The binding sites were mainly localized in the plasma membrane of the anterior acrosome and tails. On Western blots of NP-40 extracts, two WGA-binding glycoproteins, GP-49 and GP-83 were identified on the sperm recovered from both corpus and cauda epididymidis. GP-83 was removed from the sperm surface by centrifugation and resuspension in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) three times. GP-49 was resistant to centrifuging at 400 g for 5 min up to seven times and the treatment with 1M NaCl in PBS.These observations suggest that GP-49 is very likely an intrinsic membrane protein of the sperm, whereas GP-83 is an extrinsic protein.

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