In mammals, sperm cells become motile during ejaculation and swim up the female reproductive tract. Before fertilization and to overcome various barriers, their motility must be hyperactivated, a motion that is characterized by vigorous asymmetric tail beating1. Hyperactivation requires an increase in calcium in the flagella, a process that probably involves plasmalemmal ion channels2-8. Numerous attempts in the past two decades to understand sperm cell channels have been frustrated by the difficulty of measuring spermatozoan transmembrane ion currents2,3,9-16. Here, by using a simple approach to patch-clamp spermatozoa and to characterize whole-spermatozoan currents, we describe a constitutively active flagellar calcium channel that is strongly potentiated by intracellular alkalinization. This current is not present in spermatozoa lacking the sperm-specific putative ion channel protein, CatSper1. This plasma membrane protein of the six transmembrane-spanning ion channel superfamily is specifically localized to the principal piece of the sperm tail and is required for sperm cell hyperactivation and male fertility4-5. Our results identify CatSper1 as a component of the key flagellar calcium channel, and suggest that intracellular alkalinization potentiates CatSper current to increase intraflagellar calcium and induce sperm hyperactivation.
|Number of pages||4|
|State||Published - Feb 9 2006|