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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2002 Aug 1;404(1):38-47.

Assessment of acrosomal status in rat spermatozoa: studies on carbohydrate and non-carbohydrate agonists.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232-2633, USA.


In the mouse and several other species, including man, capacitated acrosome-intact spermatozoa interact with natural [soluble zona pellucida (ZP) and progesterone (P4)] and synthetic [neoglycoproteins (ngps) and calcium (Ca(2+)) ionophore] agonists, prior to the initiation of a Ca(2+)-dependent signal transduction cascade. The net result is the fusion of the sperm plasma membrane overlying the outer acrosomal membrane at multiple sites and exocytosis of acrosomal contents [i.e., induction of the acrosome reaction (AR)]. This step is believed to be a prerequisite that enables the acrosome-reacted spermatozoon to penetrate the ZP and fertilize the egg. Although the rat is one of the most commonly used laboratory animals, very little is known about the chemical nature of agonists that induce the AR in this species. The lack of this information is primarily due to the fact that the rat sperm acrosome is a relatively thin structure. Thus, it is difficult to assess the status of the sperm acrosome in this species. In this report, we describe the use of a Coomassie brilliant blue dye staining procedure to assess the status of the rat sperm acrosome by light microscopy. The procedure is highly reproducible and has allowed us to determine the effects of carbohydrate (ngps and mouse ZP) and noncarbohydrate (P4 and Ca(2+) ionophore) agonists on capacitated spermatozoa. In addition, we have used a pharmacological approach to examine the functional significance of calmodulin (CaM), a Ca(2+)-binding protein, in induction of the AR in spermatozoa. Data presented in this report demonstrate that several ngps, solubilized mZP, P4, and Ca(2+) ionophores induce the AR in rat spermatozoa. Furthermore, we demonstrate that, whereas CaM antagonists blocked P4-induced AR, most of the inhibitors used had no significant effect on the Ca(2+) ionophore-induced (nonphysiological) AR.

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