Desialylation of spermatozoa and epithelial cell glycocalyx is a consequence of bacterial infection of the epididymis

Farhad Khosravi, Vera Michel, Christina E. Galuska, Sudhanshu Bhushan, Philipp Christian, Hans Christian Schuppe, Adrian Pilatz, Sebastian P. Galuska, Andreas Meinhardt

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Urinary tract infections caused by uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) pathovars belong to the most frequent infections in humans. In men, pathogens can also spread to the genital tract via the continuous ductal system, eliciting bacterial prostatitis and/or epididymo-orchitis. Antibiotic treatment usually clears pathogens in acute epididymitis; however, the fertility of patients can be permanently impaired. Because a premature acrosome reaction was observed in an UPEC epididymitis mouse model, and sialidases on the sperm surface are considered to be activated via proteases of the acrosome, we aimed to investigate whether alterations of the sialome of epididymal spermatozoa and surrounding epithelial cells occur during UPEC infection. In UPEC-elicited acute epididymitis in mice, a substantial loss of N-acetylneuraminic acid residues was detected in epididymal spermatozoa and epithelial cells using combined laser microdissection/HPLC-ESI-MS analysis. In support, a substantial reduction of sialic acid residues bound to the surface of spermatozoa was documented in men with a recent history of E. coli-associated epididymitis. In vitro, such an UPEC induced N-acetylneuraminic acid release from human spermatozoa was effectively counteracted by a sialidase inhibitor. These findings strongly suggest a substantial remodeling of the glycocalyx of spermatozoa and epididymal epithelial cells by endogenous sialidases after a premature acrosome reaction during acute epididymitis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17717-17726
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • bacterial pathogenesis
  • glycosylation
  • glycosylation inhibitor
  • reproduction
  • sialic acid
  • sialidase
  • sperm
  • spermatozoa

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