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Immunocytochemical localization and in situ hybridization techniques were used to investigate the presence of spermatid nuclear transition protein 1 (TP1) and its mRNA during the various stages of spermatogenesis in the rat. A specific antiserum to TP1 was raised in a rabbit and used to show that TP1 is immunologically crossreactive among many mammals including humans. During spermatogenesis the protein appears in spermatids as they progress from step 12 to step 13, a period in which nuclear condensation is underway. The protein is lost during step 15. An asymmetric RNA probe generated from a TP1 cDNA clone identified TP1 mRNA in late round spermatids beginning in step 7. The message could no longer be detected in spermatids of step 15 or beyond. Thus, TP1 mRNA first appears well after meiosis in haploid cells but is not translated effectively for the several days required for these cells to progress to the stage of chromatin condensation. Message and then protein disappear as the spermatids enter step 15. In agreement with a companion biochemical study (Heidaran, M.A., and W.S. Kistler. J. Biol. Chem. 1987. 262:13309-13315), these results establish that translational control is involved in synthesis of this major spermatid nuclear protein. In addition, they suggest that TP1 plays a role in the completion but not the initiation of chromatin condensation in elongated spermatids.

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