Whole-cell patch-clamp measurements of spermatozoa reveal an alkaline-activated Ca2+ channel

Yuriy Kirichok, Betsy Navarro, David E. Clapham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

331 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)737-740
Number of pages4
Issue number7077
StatePublished - Feb 9 2006


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