A critical enzyme for sperm formation could be a target for treating male infertility

The activity of the Skp1 protein is crucial for sperm formation, Penn Vet scientists found. In a dividing sperm precursor cell, chromosomes (in purple) normally align in the middle, as shown on the left. But in cells lacking Skp1, as shown on the right, chromosomes fail to align and are instead distributed chaotically around the cell.  Credit: Wang laboratory

While some of our body’s cells divide in a matter of hours, the process of making sperm, meiosis, alone takes about 14 days from start to finish. And fully six of those days are spent in the stage known as the pachytene, when pairs of chromosomes from an individual’s mother and father align and connect.

“This stage is really important, because the pair needs to be aligned for the exchange of genetic material between those two chromosomes,” says P. Jeremy Wang, a biologist in Penn’s School of Veterinary…

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