Here we show a unique example of male infertility conferred by a gene knockout of the sperm-specific, pH-dependent SLO3 potassium channel. In striking contrast to wild-type sperm which undergo membrane hyperpolarization during capacitation, we found that SLO3 mutant sperm undergo membrane depolarization. Several defects in SLO3 mutant sperm are evident under capacitating conditions, including impaired motility, a bent "hairpin" shape, and failure to undergo the acrosome reaction (AR). The failure of AR is rescued by valinomycin which hyperpolarizes mutant sperm. Thus SLO3 is the principal potassium channel responsible for capacitation-induced hyperpolarization, and membrane hyperpolarization is crucial to the AR.
- Acrosome reaction