Male Infertility: The Effect of SUMO Protein Inhibition on Sertoli Cells
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Approximately 15% of couples worldwide experience infertility issues (Agarwal et al., 2015). According to the Reproductive Medical Associates (RMA), contrary to previous beliefs, infertility issues affect males and females equally (Male Infertility Cases, n.d.). There are many known causes of male infertility, however there are many unknown causes as well. Many proteins, or macromolecules essential in the human body, play large roles in spermatogenesis. After proteins are synthesized, they get modified by other proteins. We know that proteins known as SUMO proteins are highly expressed in germ cells, cells that are becoming sperm, and somatic cells, cells that nourish germ cells (Vigodner, 2011). The role of the SUMO proteins is to bind to other proteins in the germ and somatic cells by a process known sumoylation. These SUMO proteins either activate or inhibit their activity (Meulmesster, 2008). I worked in Dr. Vigodner's laboratory in Stern College from fall 2018 to spring 2019. Our goal was to try to understand how SUMO proteins regulate the formation of sperm cells. Our research was specifically focused on cells called "Sertoli" that serve as nursing units for developing sperm. When Sertoli cells are not functional, important factors that support developing sperm are not produced, and the situation can result in male infertility. We have shown that when you inhibit SUMO proteins in Sertoli cell lines, the cells start dying, through the activation of the process of apoptosis. Future research would still need to be performed to better understand what specific pathways are inhibited by ablation of sumoylation
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