Ubiquitination is required throughout all developmental stages of mammalian spermatogenesis. The two ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase (UCH) enzymes, UCH-L1 and UCH-L3, deubiquitinate ubiquitin-protein conjugates and control the cellular balance of ubiquitin. These two UCH isozymes have 52% amino acid identity and share significant structural similarity. A new function of these two closely related UCH enzymes during spermatogenesis which is associated with germ cell apoptosis has been analyzed. Apoptosis, in general, is thought to be partly regulated by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. During spermatogenesis, apoptosis controls germ cell numbers and eliminates defective germ cells to facilitate testicular homeostasis. In this paper, I review the distinct function of the two UCH isozymes in the testis of gad and Uchl3 knockout mice, which are strongly but reciprocally expressed during spermatogenesis. In addition, the importance of UCHL1-dependent apoptosis for normal spermatogenesis and sperm quality control is discussed.
2007 Japanese Association for Laboratory Animal Science