The sperm nucleus: Chromatin, RNA, and the nuclear matrix

Graham D. Johnson, Claudia Lalancette, Amelia K. Linnemann, Frédéric Leduc, Guylain Boissonneault, Stephen A. Krawetz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Within the sperm nucleus, the paternal genome remains functionally inert and protected following protamination. This is marked by a structural morphogenesis that is heralded by a striking reduction in nuclear volume. Despite these changes, both human and mouse spermatozoa maintain low levels of nucleosomes that appear non-randomly distributed throughout the genome. These regions may be necessary for organizing higher order genomic structure through interactions with the nuclear matrix. The promoters of this transcriptionally quiescent genome are differentially marked by modified histones that may poise downstream epigenetic effects. This notion is supported by increasing evidence that the embryo inherits these differing levels of chromatin organization. In concert with the suite of RNAs retained in the mature sperm, they may synergistically interact to direct early embryonic gene expression. Irrespective, these features reflect the transcriptional history of spermatogenic differentiation. As such, they may soon be utilized as clinical markers of male fertility. In this review, we explore and discuss how this may be orchestrated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-36
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Embryology
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Cell Biology

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