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Semin Reprod Med. 2007 May;25(3):208-19.

Non-genomic steroid actions in human spermatozoa. "Persistent tickling from a laden environment".

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Centre for Human Reproductive Science (ChRS), Assisted Conception Unit, Birmingham Women's Hospital NHS Trust Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


As sperm traverse the female tract from vagina to oocyte, they experience a steroid milieu, which due to transcriptional inactivity, they can only respond to via non-genomic signaling. This environment mediates events including capacitation, changes in motility patterns, chemotaxis, and acrosome reaction. Current knowledge of the events, calcium signaling pathways, and potential identity of receptors involved is reviewed in light of recent data, with a context for further work in the field, and emphasizing the importance of steroids as a mixed stimulant. Progesterone receptor candidates are considered in light of recent findings, including novel classes of receptors such as a progesterone membrane receptor component-1 or -2 complex with serpine-1 mRNA binding protein, the best candidate so far for progesterone activity in human sperm. Given the number of other alternative candidates and the apparent diversity of the signaling pathways activated, the presence of multiple species of progesterone receptors should not be excluded. Given that sperm dysfunction is the most common defined cause of infertility, advances in our currently limited knowledge of these pathways and events are crucial to not only create better therapies but also improve rational diagnosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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