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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Oct 23;98(22):12527-31.

A voltage-gated ion channel expressed specifically in spermatozoa.

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Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences, Department of Pharmacology, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


Calcium ions play a primary role in the regulation of sperm cell behavior. We report finding a voltage-gated ion channel (CatSper2) that is expressed in male germ cells but not in other cells. The putative channel contains 6 transmembrane segments, making it more similar to the voltage-gated potassium channels, but the ion selectivity pore domain sequence resembles that of a Ca(v) channel. The mRNA is expressed during the meiotic or postmeiotic stages of spermatogenesis, and the protein is localized to the sperm flagellum, suggesting a role in the regulation of sperm motility. The mRNA for the channel is present in mouse, rat, and human sperm cells, and the gene is found on chromosome 2 E5-F1 in the mouse and 15q13 in the human. Recently, another voltage-gated channel (CatSper) that has features similar to the one reported here was discovered. It also is expressed within the flagellum and is required for normal fertility of mice. However, expression of CatSper2 alone or coexpression with CatSper in cultured cells, or attempts to coimmunoprecipitate the two proteins from germ cells failed to demonstrate that these two unique but similar alpha-like subunits form either a homo- or heterotetramer. It is possible, therefore, that two independent alpha subunits, different from other known voltage-gated channels, regulate sperm motility.

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