Previous studies have shown that spermatogenic cells are a major source of testicular RNA encoding the opioid peptide precursor proenkephalin, suggesting that proenkephalin-derived peptides may function as intratesticular paracrine factors produced by male germ cells. However, direct evidence for the production of proenkephalin by spermatogenic cells has been lacking. In this report, we have used polysome profile analysis, peptide quantitation, and immunocytochemistry to show that proenkephalin products are synthesized during spermatogenesis and are retained within spermatozoa of humans, hamsters, rats, and sheep. We further show that these peptides are stored in the sperm acrosome and are depleted from sperm following the acrosome reaction, an exocytotic event required for fertilization. Proenkephalin products thus may serve a dual function as sperm acrosomal factors released during the fertilization process as well as intratesticular regulators secreted by spermatogenic cells.