Journal Article

The role of molecular chaperones in spermatogenesis and the post-testicular maturation of mammalian spermatozoa

Matthew D. Dun, R. John Aitken and Brett Nixon

in Human Reproduction Update

Published on behalf of European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology

Volume 18, issue 4, pages 420-435
Published in print July 2012 | ISSN: 1355-4786
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1460-2369 | DOI:
The role of molecular chaperones in spermatogenesis and the post-testicular maturation of mammalian spermatozoa

Show Summary Details



Spermatogenesis culminates in production of one of the most highly differentiated cells in biology, the spermatozoon. The gametes that emerge from the testes are, however, functionally immature and only acquire full functionality once they have completed a process of post-testicular maturation in the epididymis and female reproductive tract. Remarkably, this acquisition of sperm function occurs while these cells are transcriptionally and translationally silent and is therefore highly dependent on post-translational modifications to their existing protein complement. In this review, we consider the emerging roles of several prominent molecular chaperone families in orchestrating both the morphological differentiation of male germ cells during spermatogenesis and their functional transformation during sperm maturation.


Journal databases were searched using key words, including chaperone, heat shock protein, testes, spermatogenesis, spermatozoa, epididymal maturation, capacitation and fertilization.


In the past two decades, molecular chaperones have been acknowledged to play key roles in controlling both the morphological transformation of germ cells during spermatogenesis and the post-testicular maturation of these cells as they transit the male and female reproductive tracts. Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that aberrant chaperone expression may be a major contributing factor to the defective sperm function seen in many cases of male infertility.


Molecular chaperones are critically involved in all phases of sperm development. Targeted disruption of these proteins has the ability to arrest spermatogenesis, compromise sperm maturation and inhibit fertilization. These proteins therefore hold considerable promise as targets for novel contraceptive strategies and as diagnostic biomarkers for male infertility.

Keywords: spermatozoa; molecular chaperone; sperm maturation; fertilization

Journal Article.  11389 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Critical Care ; Reproductive Medicine

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.