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Mol Hum Reprod. 2013 Dec;19(12):785-93. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gat067. Epub 2013 Sep 26.

Sperm capacitation: a distant landscape glimpsed but unexplored.

Author information

1
Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Biology, Discipline of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and IT, University of Newcastle, and Hunter Medical Research Institute, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.

Abstract

Capacitation is a remarkable process whereby spermatozoa prepare themselves for engagement with the oocyte. Although the existence of this process has been appreciated as a biological phenomenon for more than half a century, its molecular underpinnings still await clarification. We know that some of the major changes involve sterol oxidation and efflux from the plasma membrane, the anterior movement of lipid rafts, changes in the surface expression of a variety of proteins including hyaluronidase and receptors for the zona pellucida, an increase in intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), the induction of tyrosine phosphorylation and the expression of hyperactivated motility. These changes are dependent on the presence of bicarbonate, to facilitate cAMP generation, maintain an alkaline intracellular pH and support an optimal level of reactive oxygen species generation and are enhanced by the presence of albumin to provide antioxidant protection to the plasma membrane and promote cholesterol efflux. In vivo, the rate at which sperm cells capacitate is carefully controlled in order to ensure that the release of capacitated spermatozoa from a post-insemination reservoir in the isthmic region of the oviduct is synchronized with ovulation. The factors that control these critical events are now being resolved, aided by proteomic studies that are providing critical definitive information on the range of receptors that exist in the sperm plasma membrane and define the manner in which these exquisitely complex cells interact with their environment. Progress in this area has been enhanced by IVF technology pioneered by Bob Edwards and will ultimately facilitate the design of safe, effective culture conditions for optimization of this revolutionary therapy.

KEYWORDS:

acrosome reaction; fertilization; sperm biochemistry; sperm function; spermatozoa

PMID:
24071444
DOI:
10.1093/molehr/gat067
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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