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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2011 Aug 22;343(1-2):88-92. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2011.01.022. Epub 2011 Jun 25.

Effect of capacitation on the endocannabinoid system of mouse sperm.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, Teramo 64100, Italy.


The presence of the elements of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in sperm isolated from several species (from invertebrates to mammals, humans included) has supported the "evolutionary theory" that proposes endocannabinoids as check points in reproductive events like capacitation. In this study, we characterized the ECS elements at the mRNA, protein and functional levels in mouse sperm before and after capacitation. We found that the latter process increases the endogenous levels of the two major endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol), through a decreased degradation and increased biosynthesis, respectively. Additionally, we found that the binding activity of cannabinoid receptors was not affected by sperm capacitation, whereas that of vanilloid receptor was reduced. Overall, our data demonstrate that mouse sperm have a fully functional ECS, and that capacitation alters the endogenous tone of the major endocannabinoids through distinct mechanisms.

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