Septin (SEPT) genes encode well-preserved polymerizing GTP-binding cytoskeletal proteins. The cellular functions of SEPTs consist of mitosis, cytoskeletal remodeling, cell polarity, and vesicle trafficking through interactions with various types of cytoskeletons. We discovered that mutated SEPTIN12 in different codons resulted in teratozoospermia or oligozoospermia. In mouse models with a defective Septin12 allele, sperm morphology was abnormal, sperm count decreased, and sperms were immotile. However, the regulators of SEPT12 are completely unknown. Some studies have indicated that CDC42 negatively regulates the polymerization of SEPT2/6/7 complexes in mammalian cell lines. In this study, we investigated whether CDC42 modulates SEPT12 polymerization and is involved in the terminal differentiation of male germ cells. First, through scanning electron microscopy analysis, we determined that the loss of Septin12 caused defective sperm heads. This indicated that Septin12 is critical for the formation of sperm heads. Second, CDC42 and SEPT12 were similarly localized in the perinuclear regions of the manchette at the head of elongating spermatids, neck region of elongated spermatids, and midpiece of mature spermatozoa. Third, wild-type CDC42 and CDC42Q61L (a constitutive-acting-mutant) substantially repressed SEPT12 polymerization, but CDC42T17N (a dominant-negative-acting mutant) did not, as evident through ectopic expression analysis. We concluded that CDC42 negatively regulates SEPT12 polymerization and is involved in terminal structure formation of sperm heads.
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