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Biol Reprod. 2011 Jul;85(1):179-88. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.110.085555. Epub 2011 Apr 6.

Guanine-nucleotide exchange factors (RAPGEF3/RAPGEF4) induce sperm membrane depolarization and acrosomal exocytosis in capacitated stallion sperm.

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Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.


Capacitation encompasses the molecular changes sperm undergo to fertilize an oocyte, some of which are postulated to occur via a cAMP-PRKACA (protein kinase A)-mediated pathway. Due to the recent discovery of cAMP-activated guanine nucleotide exchange factors RAPGEF3 and RAPGEF4, we sought to investigate the separate roles of PRKACA and RAPGEF3/RAPGEF4 in modulating capacitation and acrosomal exocytosis. Indirect immunofluorescence localized RAPGEF3 to the acrosome and subacrosomal ring and RAPGEF4 to the midpiece in equine sperm. Addition of the RAPGEF3/RAPGEF4-specific cAMP analogue 8-(p-chlorophenylthio)-2'-O-methyladenosine-3',5'-cyclic monophosphate (8pCPT) to sperm incubated under both noncapacitating and capacitating conditions had no effect on protein tyrosine phosphorylation, thus supporting a PRKACA-mediated event. Conversely, activation of RAPGEF3/RAPGEF4 with 8pCPT induced acrosomal exocytosis in capacitated equine sperm at rates (34%) similar (P > 0.05) to those obtained in progesterone- and calcium ionophore-treated sperm. In the mouse, capacitation-dependent hyperpolarization of the sperm plasma membrane has been shown to recruit low voltage-activated T-type Ca(2+) channels, which later open in response to zona pellucida-induced membrane depolarization. We hypothesized that RAPGEF3 may be inducing acrosomal exocytosis via depolarization-dependent Ca(2+) influx, as RAPGEF3/RAPGEF4 have been demonstrated to play a role in the regulation of ion channels in somatic cells. We first compared the membrane potential (E(m)) of noncapacitated (-37.11 mV) and capacitated (-53.74 mV; P = 0.002) equine sperm. Interestingly, when sperm were incubated (6 h) under capacitating conditions in the presence of 8pCPT, E(m) remained depolarized (-32.06 mV). Altogether, these experiments support the hypothesis that RAPGEF3/RAPGEF4 activation regulates acrosomal exocytosis via its modulation of E(m), a novel role for RAPGEF3/RAPGEF4 in the series of events required to achieve fertilization.

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