MALDI-IMS combined with shotgun proteomics identify and localize new factors in male infertility


Shibojyoti Lahiri, Wasim Aftab, Lena Walenta, Leena Strauss, Matti Poutanen, Artur Mayerhofer, Axel Imhof

Life Science Alliance, 2021, Isa 202000672

Spermatogenesis is a complex multi-step process involving intricate interactions between different cell types in the male testis. Disruption of these interactions results in infertility. Combination of shotgun tissue proteomics with MALDI imaging mass spectrometry is markedly potent in revealing topological maps of molecular processes within tissues. Here, we use a combinatorial approach on a characterized mouse model of hormone induced male infertility to uncover misregulated pathways. Comparative testicular proteome of wild-type and mice overexpressing human P450 aromatase (AROM+) with pathologically increased estrogen levels unravels gross dysregulation of spermatogenesis and emergence of pro-inflammatory pathways in AROM+ testis. In situ MS allowed us to localize misregulated proteins/peptides to defined regions within the testis. Results suggest that infertility is associated with substantial loss of proteomic heterogeneity, which define distinct stages of seminiferous tubuli in healthy animals. Importantly, considerable loss of mitochondrial factors, proteins associated with late stages of spermatogenesis and steroidogenic factors characterize AROM+ mice. Thus, the novel proteomic approach pinpoints in unprecedented ways the disruption of normal processes in testis and provides a signature for male infertility.