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Nat Cell Biol. 2003 Oct;5(10):902-6. Epub 2003 Sep 28.

Involvement of CFTR in uterine bicarbonate secretion and the fertilizing capacity of sperm.

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  • 1Epithelial Cell Biology Research Center, Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China.


Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is a cAMP-activated chloride channel expressed in a wide variety of epithelial cells, mutations of which are responsible for the hallmark defective chloride secretion observed in cystic fibrosis (CF). Although CFTR has been implicated in bicarbonate secretion, its ability to directly mediate bicarbonate secretion of any physiological significance has not been shown. We demonstrate here that endometrial epithelial cells possess a CFTR-mediated bicarbonate transport mechanism. Co-culture of sperm with endometrial cells treated with antisense oligonucleotide against CFTR, or with bicarbonate secretion-defective CF epithelial cells, resulted in lower sperm capacitation and egg-fertilizing ability. These results are consistent with a critical role of CFTR in controlling uterine bicarbonate secretion and the fertilizing capacity of sperm, providing a link between defective CFTR and lower female fertility in CF.

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