Spermatogenesis is driven by an ordered series of events, which rely on trafficking of specific proteins between nucleus and cytoplasm. The karyopherin α family of proteins mediates movement of specific cargo proteins when bound to karyopherin β. Karyopherin α genes have distinct expression patterns in mouse testis, implying they may have unique roles during mammalian spermatogenesis. Here, we use a loss-of-function approach to determine specifically the role of Kpna6 in spermatogenesis and male fertility. We show that ablation of Kpna6 in male mice leads to infertility and has multiple cumulative effects on both germ cells and Sertoli cells. Kpna6-deficient mice exhibit impaired Sertoli cell function, including loss of Sertoli cells and a compromised nuclear localization of the androgen receptor. Furthermore, our data demonstrate devastating defects on spermiogenesis, including incomplete sperm maturation and a massive reduction in sperm number, accompanied by disturbed histone-protamine exchange, differential localization of the transcriptional regulator BRWD1 and altered expression of RFX2 target genes. Our work uncovers an essential role of Kpna6 in spermatogenesis and, hence, in male fertility.
- Male fertility