The perinuclear theca (PT) is a cytoskeletal element encapsulating the sperm nucleus; however, the physiological roles of the PT in sperm are largely uncertain. Here, we reveal that ACTRT1, ACTRT2, ACTL7A and ACTL9 proteins interact to form a multimeric complex and localize to the subacrosomal region of spermatids. Furthermore, we engineered Actrt1-knockout (KO) mice to define the functions of ACTRT1. Despite normal sperm count and motility, Actrt1-KO males were severely subfertile owing to a deficiency in fertilization. Loss of ACTRT1 caused a high incidence of malformed heads and detachment of acrosomes from sperm nuclei, caused by loosened acroplaxome structure during spermiogenesis. Furthermore, Actrt1-KO sperm showed reduced ACTL7A and PLCζ protein content as a potential cause of fertilization defects. Moreover, we reveal that ACTRT1 anchors developing acrosomes to the nucleus, likely by interacting with the inner acrosomal membrane protein SPACA1 and the nuclear envelope proteins PARP11 and SPATA46. Loss of ACTRT1 weakened the interaction between ACTL7A and SPACA1. Our study and recent findings of ACTL7A/ACTL9-deficient sperm together reveal that the sperm PT-specific ARP complex mediates the acrosome-nucleus connection.

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