In previous studies we identified an epididymal gene that exhibits homology to the cystatin family of cysteine protease inhibitors. The expression of this gene, termed CRES (cystatin-related epididymal and spermatogenic), was shown to be highly restricted to the proximal caput epididymal epithelium with less expression in the testis and no expression in the 24 other tissues examined. In this report, studies were carried out to examine CRES gene expression in the testis as well as to characterize the CRES protein in the testis and epididymis. In situ hybridization experiments revealed that within the testis CRES gene expression is stage-specific during spermatogenesis and is exclusively expressed by the round spermatids of Stages VII-VIII and the early elongating spermatids of Stages IX and X. Immunohistochemical studies demonstrated that CRES protein was transiently expressed in both the testis and epididymis. Within the testis the protein was localized to the elongating spermatids, whereas within the epididymis CRES protein was exclusively synthesized by the proximal caput epithelium and then secreted into the lumen. Surprisingly, the secreted CRES protein had completely disappeared from the epididymal lumen by the distal caput epididymidis. Western blot analysis of testicular and epididymal proteins showed that the CRES antibody specifically recognized a predominant 19 kDa CRES protein and a less abundant 14 kDa form. These observations suggest that the CRES protein performs a specialized role during sperm development and maturation.