ZFP628 Is a TAF4b-Interacting Transcription Factor Required for Mouse Spermiogenesis [Research Article]

TAF4b is a subunit of the TFIID complex that is highly expressed in the ovary and testis and required for mouse fertility. TAF4b-deficient male mice undergo a complex series of developmental defects that result in the inability to maintain long-term spermatogenesis. To decipher the transcriptional mechanisms upon which TAF4b functions in spermatogenesis, we used two-hybrid screening to identify a novel TAF4b-interacting transcriptional cofactor, ZFP628. Deletion analysis of both proteins reveals discrete and novel domains of ZFP628 and TAF4b protein that function to bridge their direct interaction in vitro. Moreover, coimmunoprecipitation of ZFP628 and TAF4b proteins in testis-derived protein extracts supports their endogenous association. Using CRISPR-Cas9, we disrupted the expression of ZFP628 in the mouse and uncovered a postmeiotic germ cell arrest at the round spermatid stage in the seminiferous tubules of the testis in ZFP628-deficient mice that results in male infertility. Coincident with round spermatid arrest, we find reduced mRNA expression of transition protein (Tnp1 and Tnp2) and protamine (Prm1 and Prm2) genes, which are critical for the specialized maturation of haploid male germ cells called spermiogenesis. These data delineate a novel association of two transcription factors, TAF4b and ZFP628, and identify ZFP628 as a novel transcriptional regulator of stage-specific spermiogenesis.

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