The role of alkalinization-induced Ca2+ influx in sperm motility activation of a viviparous fish Redtail Splitfin (Xenotoca eiseni)

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Mechanisms regulating sperm motility activation are generally known in oviparous fishes, but are poorly understood in viviparous species. The mechanism of osmotic-shock induced signaling for oviparous fishes is not suitable for viviparous fishes which activate sperm motility within an isotonic environment. In addition, the presence of sperm bundles in viviparous fishes further complicates study of sperm activation mechanisms. The goal of this study was to establish methodologies to detect intracellular Ca2+ signals from sperm cells within bundles, and to investigate the signaling mechanism of sperm activation of viviparous fish using Redtail Splitfin (Xenotoca eiseni) as a model. Motility was assessed by classification of bundle dissociation and computer-assisted sperm analysis, and intracellular Ca2+ was assessed using the fluorescent probe Fura-2 AM. Bundle dissociation and sperm motility increased with extracellular Ca2+ and pH levels. Intracellular Ca2+ signals were detected from sperm within bundles, and increased significantly with extracellular Ca2+ and pH levels. Major channel blockers known to inhibit Ca2+ influx (NiCl2, ruthenium red, GdCl3, SKF-96365, nimodipine, verapamil, methoxyverapamil, mibefradil, NNC 55-0396, ω-Conotoxin MVIIC, bepridil, and 2-APB) failed to inhibit Ca2+ influx, except for CdCl2, which partially inhibited the influx. We propose a novel mechanism for motility regulation of fish sperm: an alkaline environment in the female reproductive tract opens Ca2+ channels in the sperm plasma membrane without osmotic shock, and the Ca2+ influx functions as a second messenger to activate motor proteins controlling flagella movement.

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Biology of reproduction

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