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J Reprod Fertil. 1983 Nov;69(2):539-53.

Potassium ions modulate expression of mouse sperm fertilizing ability, acrosome reaction and hyperactivated motility in vitro.


In K+-free medium, epididymal sperm suspensions, whether washed free of epididymally-derived K+ or not, were unable to penetrate washed cumulus masses; some penetration of zona-free eggs was obtained with unwashed sperm suspensions, while washed samples were generally non-fertilizing. Within 5 min of K+ introduction, however, spermatozoa were able to fertilize intact eggs rapidly and synchronously, indicating that K+ was not required for capacitation. Measurements of extracellular K+ concentrations in these experiments indicate that 0.1-0.15 mM-K+ is sufficient to support sperm: egg fusion, but concentrations greater than 0.15 mM are required for penetration of cumulus-intact eggs. When medium of normal osmolality (318 mosmol) but elevated K+/Na+ ratio (27.7 mM/125 mM) was compared with control medium (2.7/150), the former promoted lower rates of penetration after both 30 and 120 min preincubation (8 and 10%, respectively) than those obtained with control medium (45 and 95%). Upon reduction to the ratio in control media, however, the fertilizing potential of these suspensions was equivalent to control samples: relatively slow and asynchronous penetration after 30 min preincubation (50%) and rapid, synchronous penetration after 120 min (92%). Thus there was no evidence of a shortening of sperm capacitation time, but rather a suppression of fertilizing potential in the presence of elevated K+. Uterine sperm samples recovered shortly after mating gave similar results when tested in these media 30 and 120 min after release from the male tract. Preincubation of epididymal samples in high K+ (27.7 mM) hyperosmolal media (368 mosmol) for 30 min significantly shortened sperm capacitation as shown by rapid penetration of intact eggs (94%) after reduction in osmolality, but this appeared to be a non-specific effect; high Na+ (175 mM) hyperosmolal medium had a similar effect (98% of eggs fertilized). Acrosome loss and hyperactivated motility were significantly lower in media with very low or very high K+ concentrations but, after alteration to control medium values, increased to levels similar to those obtained with control samples. It is proposed that the relatively high K+ concentrations found in female tract fluids (approximately 20-30 mM) may serve to modulate fertilizing potential of spermatozoa in vivo.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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