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Fertil Steril. 1999 May;71(5):930-6.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) A and B receptors mediate the stimulatory effects of GABA on the human sperm acrosome reaction: interaction with progesterone.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Catania Medical School, Italy.



To evaluate which gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor mediates the stimulatory effects of this neurotransmitter on the human sperm acrosome reaction, and to examine the interaction of progesterone, a physiologic inducer of the acrosome reaction, with the GABA(A) receptor.


Prospective study.


A university clinic of andrology.


Men with normal sperm analysis parameters.




The acrosome reaction of motile spermatozoa.


The acrosome reaction was stimulated by GABA in a dose-dependent manner. This effect was inhibited completely by bicuculline, a GABA(A) receptor antagonist, and only partially by saclofen, a GABA(B) receptor antagonist. Accordingly, muscimol, a GABA(A) receptor agonist, stimulated the acrosome reaction to the same extent as GABA, whereas baclofen, a GABA(B) receptor agonist, was less effective. Preincubation with progesterone followed by the addition of GABA resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of acrosome-reacted spermatozoa compared with progesterone alone. However, this increase was less than a simple addition of effects, suggesting that GABA and progesterone act through the same receptor and/or use the same mechanism of action. To test this hypothesis, the ability of progesterone to induce acrosome reaction was tested in the presence of bicuculline, which suppressed the stimulatory effects of progesterone. Given that the GABA(A) receptor is linked to the chloride channel, we tested whether picrotoxin, a blocker of this channel, could modulate the effects of progesterone or GABA. Picrotoxin completely suppressed the acrosome reaction induced by progesterone and only partially suppressed that caused by GABA.


gamma-Aminobutyric acid stimulated the acrosome reaction in human spermatozoa, acting mainly through the GABA(A) receptor and to a lesser extent through the GABA(B) receptor. Progesterone interacted with the GABA(A) receptor to induce the acrosome reaction, and the functional integrity of the chloride channel was vital for this effect.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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