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Team Unearths Conserved Spermatogenesis Gene With Proposed Contraceptive Utility

For a paper appearing in Nature Communications, a Washington State University-led team used transcriptomics to identify a spermatogenesis-related gene expressed in testicular tissue in mice and other mammals, pointing to the potential of targeting the gene to develop non-hormonal and reversible form of male contraception. With the help of single-cell RNA sequencing and bioinformatics analyses, the researchers searched for conserved germ cell expression patterns in tens of thousands of individual cattle, pig, or mouse testis cells, focusing in on an arrestin domain-containing gene called Arrdc5. By incorporating RT-PCR analyses and available human tissue expression data from GTEx, they found apparent testis-specific Arrdc5 expression, while follow-up experiments in knockout mice suggested that mice missing the gene produced sperm marked by malformations and reduced motility. From these and other results, the authors call Arrdc5 "an essential regulatory of mammalian spermatogenesis," and point to the possibility of exploiting this process for contraceptive applications. "[T]argeting AARDC5 with small-molecule inhibitors may provide an excellent avenue for novel male contraceptive development," they suggest.