Membrane hyperpolarization during human sperm capacitation

I. López-González, P. Torres-Rodríguez, O. Sánchez-Carranza, A. Solís-López, C. M. Santi, A. Darszon, C. L. Treviño

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66 Scopus citations


Sperm capacitation is a complex and indispensable physiological process that spermatozoa must undergo in order to acquire fertilization capability. Spermatozoa from several mammalian species, including mice, exhibit a capacitation-associated plasma membrane hyperpolarization, which is necessary for the acrosome reaction to occur. Despite its importance, this hyperpolarization event has not been adequately examined in human sperm. In this reportwe used flow cytometry to show that a subpopulation of human sperm indeed undergo a plasma membrane hyperpolarization upon in vitro capacitation. This hyperpolarization correlated with two other well-characterized capacitation parameters, namely an increase in intracellular pH and Ca2+ concentration, measured also by flow cytometry.We found that sperm membrane hyperpolarization was completely abolished in the presence of a high external K+ concentration (60 mM), indicating the participation of K+ channels. In order to identify, which of the potential K+ channels were involved in this hyperpolarization, we used different K+ channel inhibitors including charybdotoxin, slotoxin and iberiotoxin (which target Slo1) and clofilium (a more specific blocker for Slo3). All these K+ channel antagonists inhibited membrane hyperpolarization to a similar extent, suggesting that both members of the Slo family may potentially participate. Two very recent papers recorded K+ currents in human sperm electrophysiologically, with some contradictory results. In the present work, we show through immunoblotting that Slo3 channels are present in the human sperm membrane. In addition, we found that human Slo3 channels expressed inCHOcells were sensitive to clofilium (50 μM). Considered altogether, our data indicate that Slo1 and Slo3 could share the preponderant role in the capacitation-associated hyperpolarization of human sperm in contrast to what has been previously reported for mouse sperm, where Slo3 channels are the main contributors to the hyperpolarization event.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbergau029
Pages (from-to)619-629
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular human reproduction
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Flow cytometry
  • Human sperm
  • Hyperpolarization


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