Entropy based analysis of vertebrate sperm protamines sequences: Evidence of potential dityrosine and cysteine-tyrosine cross-linking in sperm protamines

Christian D. Powell, Daniel C. Kirchoff, Jason E. Derouchey, Hunter N.B. Moseley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Spermatogenesis is the process by which germ cells develop into spermatozoa in the testis. Sperm protamines are small, arginine-rich nuclear proteins which replace somatic histones during spermatogenesis, allowing a hypercondensed DNA state that leads to a smaller nucleus and facilitating sperm head formation. In eutherian mammals, the protamine-DNA complex is achieved through a combination of intra- A nd intermolecular cysteine cross-linking and possibly histidine-cysteine zinc ion binding. Most metatherian sperm protamines lack cysteine but perform the same function. This lack of dicysteine cross-linking has made the mechanism behind metatherian protamines folding unclear. Results: Protamine sequences from UniProt's databases were pulled down and sorted into homologous groups. Multiple sequence alignments were then generated and a gap weighted relative entropy score calculated for each position. For the eutherian alignments, the cysteine containing positions were the most highly conserved. For the metatherian alignment, the tyrosine containing positions were the most highly conserved and corresponded to the cysteine positions in the eutherian alignment. Conclusions: High conservation indicates likely functionally/structurally important residues at these positions in the metatherian protamines and the correspondence with cysteine positions within the eutherian alignment implies a similarity in function. One possible explanation is that the metatherian protamine structure relies upon dityrosine cross-linking between these highly conserved tyrosines. Also, the human protamine P1 sequence has a tyrosine substitution in a position expecting eutherian dicysteine cross-linking. Similarly, some members of the metatherian Planigales genus contain cysteine substitutions in positions expecting plausible metatherian dityrosine cross-linking. Rare cysteine-tyrosine cross-linking could explain both observations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number277
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 3 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Cross-Linking
  • Protamine
  • Relative Entropy
  • Sperm Chromatin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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