P. Prabhakara Reddi, Ph.D

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P. Prabhakara Reddi, Ph.D

Reddi portrait


Prabhakara P. Reddi, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pathology


Transcriptional Regulation of Mammalian Spermatogenesis

The long term goal of our research is to contribute to a better understanding of male infertility for which currently there are limited treatment options. During spermatogenesis the male germ cells must express a series of differentiation markers in a spatiotemporal manner following a precise transcriptional program; failure to do so will result in maturation arrest and male infertility. Thus, a significant question to ask is how gene transcription is controlled during spermatogenesis. The question of how testis-specific genes remain silent in the somatic tissues is equally important because many cancers aberrantly express spermatogenic differentiation markers. We have utilized a candidate gene approach to understand the mechanisms of testis-specific gene transcription. The mouse acrv1 gene, which codes for the evolutionarily conserved acrosomal protein SP-10 and is transcribed exclusively in the round spermatids, served as a model for promoter analysis studies in transgenic mice. Our main findings are: 1) a chromatin insulator located in the proximal promoter of the acrv1 gene tethers it to the nuclear lamina within the somatic tissues and silences the gene by sequestering the promoter from the transcriptional machinery. 2) This tethering is released in the male germ line ahead of the formation of round spermatids and pausing of RNA Pol II at the promoter provides further fine-tuning for the maintenance of spatiotemporal expression. Our studies suggest that remodeling of the nuclear lamina-chromatin interaction plays a key role in the differentiation of the spermatocytes and spermatids by releasing a number of differentiation markers for transcription.

The acrv1 insulator is novel because it lacks the CpG dinucleotides and CTCF binding sites characteristic of the prototypical HS4 and H19 ICR vertebrate insulators. The mechanism of insulator function, i.e., by tethering to the nuclear lamina, is similar to that of other insulators. We have identified the DNA/RNA binding protein TDP-43 as acrv1 promoter binding protein. TDP-43 is expressed ubiquitously. Gal4 recruitment studies showed that TDP-43 functions as a transcriptional repressor and in vivo chromatin immunoprecipitation showed promoter occupancy consistent with such a role in acrv1 transcription in a physiological context. Mutation studies indicate that TDP-43 occupancy of the acrv1 promoter is required for prevention of premature expression in spermatocytes. Taken together, we propose that one function of TDP-43 is to represses gene transcription by maintaining RNA Pol II in a paused state. We are testing the hypothesis that TDP-43 is essential for spermatogenesis. 

Link to neurodegenerative disease

A prominent role for TDP-43 has emerged in the field of neurodegenerative disease in the recent years. It turns out that TDP-43, which is normally a nuclear protein, becomes mislocalized, aberrantly phosphorylated, ubiquitylated and aggregated in the motor neurons and glial cells of patients with a variety of neurodegenerative disorders including frontotemporal dementia, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease. TDP-43 appears to be linked to the familial form of ALS. Currently it is not clear whether the disease is caused due to the loss of function or toxic gain of function, owing in part to insufficient understanding of the function of TDP-43. Based on our studies using spermatogenesis as a model system, we hypothesize that in the neuronal cells TDP-43 coordinately regulates the transcription of a number of genes including those which must be in a ready-to-respond state (with a paused polymerase at the promoter) and that its mislocalization to the cytoplasm leads to loss of function of motor neurons leading to disease.



1: Divya Saro Varghese, Uma Chandran, Soumya A, Sathy M. Pillai, Jayakrishnan K, Reddi PP, and Pradeep G Kumar. Aberrant expression of TAR DNA binding protein-43 is associated with spermatogenic disorders in human males. Reproduction, Fertility, and Development. September 2014. “In Press”.

2: Osuru HP, Monroe JE, Chebolu AP, Akamune J, Pramoonjago P, Ranpura SA, Reddi PP. The acrosomal protein SP-10 (Acrv1) is an ideal marker for staging of the cycle of seminiferous epithelium in the mouse. Mol Reprod Dev. 2014 Aug 26. doi: 10.1002/mrd.22358. [Epub ahead of print]

3: Lalmansingh AS, Urekar CJ, Reddi PP. TDP-43 is a transcriptional repressor: the testis-specific mouse acrv1 gene is a TDP-43 target in vivo. J Biol Chem. 2011 Apr 1;286(13):10970-82. Epub 2011 Jan 20. PubMed PMID: 21252238; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3064152.

4: Reddi PP, Urekar CJ, Abhyankar MM, Ranpura SA. Role of an insulator in testis-specific gene transcription. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Dec;1120:95-103. Review. PubMed PMID: 18184912.

5: Ranpura SA, Deshmukh U, Reddi PP. NF45 and NF90 in murine seminiferous epithelium: potential role in SP-10 gene transcription. J Androl. 2008 Mar-Apr;29(2):186-97. Epub 2007 Oct 17. PubMed PMID: 17942973.

6: Abhyankar MM, Urekar C, Reddi PP. A novel CpG-free vertebrate insulator silences the testis-specific SP-10 gene in somatic tissues: role for TDP-43 in insulator function. J Biol Chem. 2007 Dec 14;282(50):36143-54. Epub 2007 Oct 11. PubMed PMID: 17932037.

7: Acharya KK, Govind CK, Shore AN, Stoler MH, Reddi PP. cis-requirement for the maintenance of round spermatid-specific transcription. Dev Biol. 2006 Jul 15;295(2):781-90. Epub 2006 May 3. PubMed PMID: 16730344.

8: Reddi PP, Shore AN, Shapiro JA, Anderson A, Stoler MH, Acharya KK. Spermatid-specific promoter of the SP-10 gene functions as an insulator in somatic cells. Dev Biol. 2003 Oct 1;262(1):173-82. PubMed PMID:14512027