Sperm activation is a rapid and dramatic cell differentiation event that does not involve changes in transcription, and the signaling cascades that mediate this process have not been fully defined. zipt-7.1 encodes a zinc transporter, and zipt-7.1(lf ) mutants display sperm-activation defects, leading to the hypothesis that zinc signaling mediates sperm activation in Caenorhabditis elegans. Here, we describe the development of a method for dynamic imaging of labile zinc during sperm activation using the zinc-specific fluorescence probe FluoZin-3 AM and time-lapse confocal imaging. Two phases of dynamic changes in labile zinc levels were observed during sperm activation. Forced zinc entry using the zinc ionophore pyrithione activated sperm in vitro, and it suppressed the defects of zipt-7.1(lf ) mutants, indicating that high levels of cytosolic zinc are sufficient for sperm activation. We compared activation by zinc pyrithione to activation by extracellular zinc, the Na+/H+ antiporter monensin and the protease cocktail pronase in multiple mutant backgrounds. These results indicate that the protease pathway does not require zinc signaling, suggesting that zinc signaling is sufficient to activate sperm but is not always necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdev199836
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge)
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Cell differentiation
  • Fertility
  • Pyrithione
  • ZIPT-7.1
  • Zinc signaling
  • Zinc transporter


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