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Biol Reprod. 2003 Jul;69(1):248-53. Epub 2003 Mar 19.

Deduction of a model for sperm storage in the oviduct of the domestic fowl (Gallus domesticus).

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  • 1Department of Animal Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA.


The mechanism of sperm storage in the fowl oviduct has remained a mystery since the 1960s, when sperm storage tubules (SST) were discovered between the shell gland and vagina. Previously, it was known that only motile sperm could ascend the vagina and enter these tubules. However, the means by which sperm resided therein was not clear. Research with computer-assisted sperm motion analysis has demonstrated that 1) seminal plasma glutamate acts as a motility agonist via N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors; 2) motility depends on extracellular Ca2+ and Na+; 3) straight-line velocity is a variable with a skewed distribution; 4) sperm cell trajectory is a function of straight-line velocity; and 5) specific inhibition of phospholipase A2 renders sperm immotile. An additional experiment demonstrated that Ca2+ acts as a second messenger and thereby modulates the content of long-chain acylcarnitine within sperm. Therefore, it is proposed that 1) the release of endogenous fatty acids fuels sperm as they ascend the vagina; (2) on entering the SST, motile sperm maintain position against a fluid current generated by SST epithelial cells; 3) resident sperm metabolize exogenous fatty acids released from lipid-laden epithelial cells; (4) motile sperm emerge from the SST when their velocity declines to a threshold at which retrograde movement begins; and 5) the skewed distribution of straight-line velocity accounts for the exponential pattern of sperm emergence from the SST. In summary, sperm residence within and emergence from the SST are phenomena most likely explicable in terms of sperm cell motility.

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