MRP5 AND MRP9 PLAY A CONCERTED ROLE IN MALE REPRODUCTION AND MITOCHONDRIAL FUNCTION
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Heme is an essential iron-containing cofactor in proteins that perform diverse functions in biology. Free heme is not only hydrophobic but also generates cytotoxic peroxide radicals. In eukaryotes, heme synthesis occurs in the mitochondria but must be transported to different intracellular organelles to be utilized by hemoproteins, a process that remains poorly understood. In Caenorhabditis elegans, MRP5/ABCC5 is an essential heme exporter as mrp-5 knockout worms are unviable due to their inability to export nutritional heme from the intestine to extra-intestinal tissues. Heme supplementation restores viability of these mutants but fails to restore male reproductive deficits. By contrast, MRP5 in mammals regulates heme levels in the secretory pathway but shows no reproductive phenotypes. Phylogenetically, the closest homolog of MRP5 in vertebrates is MRP9/ABCC12, which is absent in C. elegans raising the possibility that MRP9 may genetically compensate for MRP5 lossin vertebrates. Here, we show that MRP5 and MRP9 double knockout (DKO) mice are viable but reveal significant male reproductive deficits, reminiscent of mrp-5 worms. Although MRP9 is highly expressed in sperm, MRP9 knockout mice show reproductive phenotypes only when MRP5 is absent. Unlike other ABCC transporters, these proteins localize to mitochondrial-associated membranes (MAMs), dynamic scaffolds that associate the mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum. Consequently, combined loss of both transporters results in abnormal sperm mitochondria and reduced fertilization rates in DKO mice. Untargeted metabolomics show striking differences in metabolite profiles in the DKO testes, consistent with the localization of these transporters to MAMs where inter-organellar metabolite exchange occurs. RNA-seq results show significant alterations in genes related to mitochondria function and energy production, EIF2 signaling, and retinoic acid metabolism. Targeted functional metabolomics reveal retinoic acid levels are significantly lower in the DKO testes. These findings establish a model in which MRP5 and MRP9 play a concerted role in regulating normal male reproductive functions and mitochondrial sufficiency.