Mammalian spermatozoa acquire full fertilizing ability only after a morphofunctional maturation called “capacitation.” During this process the high level of bicarbonate present within the upper female genital tract or in culture medium induces a marked reorganization of sperm membranes characterized by a biphasic behavior: In a few minutes, it promotes membrane phospholipid scrambling preliminary to the apical translocation of sterol that, 2–4 h later, enables spermatozoa to recognize zona pellucida after albumin-mediated cholesterol extraction. In the present research it was demonstrated that spermatozoa incubated with bicarbonate in protein-free media underwent a marked reorganization of lipid microdomains present in a detergent-resistant membrane fraction (DRM) isolated by ultracentrifugation on sucrose density gradient. In fact, bicarbonate exposed sperm (ES) cells, compared with ejaculated spermatozoa (nonexposed sperm [nES] cells), displayed an increase in protein DRM content and, in particular, in Cav-1 and CD55, markers of caveolae and lipid rafts, as well in acrosin-2, a marker of the outer acrosomal membrane (OAM). Moreover, the amount of certain proteins involved in capacitation, such as the endocannabinoid system receptors cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CBR1) and transient receptor potential cation channel 1 (TRPV1), increased in DRM obtained from ES. These data allow us to hypothesize that sperm membrane reorganization takes place even in the absence of extracellular proteins; that not only the plasma membrane but also the OAM participate in this process; and that important molecules playing a key role in inside–out signaling, such as the endocannbinoid receptors TRPV1 and CBR1, are involved in this event, with potentially important consequences on sperm function.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 23, 2010
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