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Special Issue "Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Biology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. María Julia Bragado
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Extremadura, Cáceres, Spain
Interests: cellular function of male gamete; molecular regulation of spermatozoa function; sperm protein phosphorylation; kinases-mediated signaling pathways; motility; link between sperm metabolism and function

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue, “Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function”, will cover recent research topics in this expanding field, ranging from molecular and cellular to in vivo experimental approaches, including a selection of recent research topics and current review articles related to the spermatozoa function in physiological conditions as well as under different special conditions, such as those driving semen preservation.

Starting from the basic essential concept of male gamete function in reproduction, spermatozoon has gone far beyond an average cell. Being a highly differentiated cell, spermatozoon has attracted growing interest in many areas of biological research. The molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of sperm function basically rely on the direct interaction of this gamete with the surrounding extracellular media. Endogenous stimuli present as different molecules (ions, proteins, hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors, extracellular vesicles, etc.) will trigger specific intracellular signaling pathways in the spermatozoa, mainly due to post-translational modifications of sperm proteins, which ultimately render the correct sperm physiological response in each metabolic or cellular moment.

Emphasis will be given to any aspect of spermatozoa physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology of sperm functional processes, and also those devoted to studying sperm function during seminal preservation. Additionally, any paper related to the molecular aspects of sperm function regulation under specific conditions will also be considered for this Special Issue.

Prof. Dr. María Julia Bragado
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Molecular Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. There is an Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal. For details about the APC please see here. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • spermatozoa
  • motility
  • hyperactivation
  • acrosome reaction
  • capacitation
  • fertilization
  • kinases
  • phosphorylation

Published Papers (22 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Human Sperm Capacitation Involves the Regulation of the Tyr-Phosphorylation Level of the Anion Exchanger 1 (AE1)
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(11), 4063; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21114063 - 05 Jun 2020
Abstract
Bicarbonate uptake is one of the early steps of capacitation, but the identification of proteins regulating anion fluxes remains elusive. The aim of this study is to investigate the role of sperm solute carrier 4 (SLC4) A1 (spAE1) in the capacitation process. The [...] Read more.
Bicarbonate uptake is one of the early steps of capacitation, but the identification of proteins regulating anion fluxes remains elusive. The aim of this study is to investigate the role of sperm solute carrier 4 (SLC4) A1 (spAE1) in the capacitation process. The expression, location, and tyrosine-phosphorylation (Tyr-P) level of spAE1 were assessed. Thereby, it was found that 4,4′-Diisothiocyano-2,2′-stilbenedisulfonic acid (DIDS), an SLC4 family channel blocker, inhibited capacitation in a dose-dependent manner by decreasing acrosome reaction (ARC% 24.5 ± 3.3 vs. 64.9 ± 4.3, p < 0.05) and increasing the percentage of not viable cells (NVC%), comparable to the inhibition by I-172, a cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) blocker (AR% 30.5 ± 4.4 and NVC% 18.6 ± 2.2). When used in combination, a synergistic inhibitory effect was observed with a remarkable increase of the percentage of NVC (45.3 ± 4.1, p < 0.001). spAE1 was identified in sperm membrane as a substrate for Tyr-protein kinases Lyn and Syk, which were identified as both soluble and membrane-bound pools. spAE1-Tyr-P level increased in the apical region of sperm under capacitating conditions and was negatively affected by I-172 or DIDS, and, to a far greater extent, by a combination of both. In conclusion, we demonstrated that spAE1 is expressed in sperm membranes and it is phosphorylated by Syk, but above all by Lyn on Tyr359, which are involved in sperm viability and capacitation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Changes in the Cellular Distribution of Tyrosine Phosphorylation and Its Relationship with the Acrosomal Exocytosis and Plasma Membrane Integrity during In Vitro Capacitation of Frozen/Thawed Bull Spermatozoa
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(8), 2725; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21082725 - 15 Apr 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
During sperm capacitation, intracellular signaling leads to protein tyrosine phosphorylation (PTP) of multiple cellular structures. However, the connection of this molecular signaling to the physiology of capacitated spermatozoa is not completely understood. This is the case of the short lifespan of capacitated spermatozoa [...] Read more.
During sperm capacitation, intracellular signaling leads to protein tyrosine phosphorylation (PTP) of multiple cellular structures. However, the connection of this molecular signaling to the physiology of capacitated spermatozoa is not completely understood. This is the case of the short lifespan of capacitated spermatozoa and their increased susceptibility to initiate acrosomal exocytosis (AE) during incubation. Herein, by employing frozen/thawed bull spermatozoa, we aimed to study the relationship between PTP with AE and with plasma membrane integrity (PMI) at the cellular level. For this, we employed double staining following immunofluorescence for PTP combined with fluorescence probes for the acrosome (PNA-FITC) and PMI (LIVE/DEAD Fixable Dead Cell Stain Kit). Our results revealed that the presence of PTP at sperm head was less abundant in the sperm fraction that triggered the AE after 3 h of incubation under capacitating conditions, or by its induction with calcium ionophore, compared to the unreacted fraction. Furthermore, PTP at the equatorial region of the head (PTP-EQ) was enriched in the fraction showing damaged membrane while induction of AE with calcium ionophore did not alter the PMI and its relation to PTP-EQ. These results suggest that spontaneous AE and induced AE trigger similar cellular events regarding PTP and the spermatozoa showing PTP-EQ are more prone to suffer plasma membrane damage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Melatonin Non-Linearly Modulates Bull Spermatozoa Motility and Physiology in Capacitating and Non-Capacitating Conditions
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(8), 2701; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21082701 - 13 Apr 2020
Abstract
Bull spermatozoa physiology may be modulated by melatonin. We washed ejaculated spermatozoa free of melatonin and incubated them (4 h, 38 °C) with 0-pM, 1-pM, 100-pM, 10-nM and 1-µM melatonin in TALP-HEPES (non-capacitating) and TALP-HEPES-heparin (capacitating). This range of concentrations encompassed the effects [...] Read more.
Bull spermatozoa physiology may be modulated by melatonin. We washed ejaculated spermatozoa free of melatonin and incubated them (4 h, 38 °C) with 0-pM, 1-pM, 100-pM, 10-nM and 1-µM melatonin in TALP-HEPES (non-capacitating) and TALP-HEPES-heparin (capacitating). This range of concentrations encompassed the effects mediated by melatonin receptors (pM), intracellular targets (nM–µM) or antioxidant activity (µM). Treatment effects were assessed as motility changes by computer-assisted sperm analysis (CASA) of motility and physiological changes by flow cytometry. Melatonin effects were more evident in capacitating conditions, with 100 pM reducing motility and velocity (VCL) while increasing a “slow” subpopulation. All concentrations decreased apoptotic spermatozoa and stimulated mitochondrial activity in viable spermatozoa, with 100 pM–1 µM increasing acrosomal damage, 10 nM–1 µM increasing intracellular calcium and 1 pM reducing the response to a calcium-ionophore challenge. In non-capacitating media, 1 µM increased hyperactivation-related variables and decreased apoptotic spermatozoa; 100 pM–1 µM increased membrane disorders (related to capacitation); all concentrations decreased mitochondrial ROS production. Melatonin concentrations had a modal effect on bull spermatozoa, suggesting a capacitation-modulating role and protective effect at physiological concentrations (pM). Some effects may be of practical use, considering artificial reproductive techniques. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
The Role of Taste Receptor mTAS1R3 in Chemical Communication of Gametes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(7), 2651; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21072651 - 10 Apr 2020
Abstract
Fertilization is a multiple step process leading to the fusion of female and male gametes and the formation of a zygote. Besides direct gamete membrane interaction via binding receptors localized on both oocyte and sperm surface, fertilization also involves gamete communication via chemical [...] Read more.
Fertilization is a multiple step process leading to the fusion of female and male gametes and the formation of a zygote. Besides direct gamete membrane interaction via binding receptors localized on both oocyte and sperm surface, fertilization also involves gamete communication via chemical molecules triggering various signaling pathways. This work focuses on a mouse taste receptor, mTAS1R3, encoded by the Tas1r3 gene, as a potential receptor mediating chemical communication between gametes using the C57BL/6J lab mouse strain. In order to specify the role of mTAS1R3, we aimed to characterize its precise localization in testis and sperm using super resolution microscopy. The testis cryo-section, acrosome-intact sperm released from cauda epididymis and sperm which underwent the acrosome reaction (AR) were evaluated. The mTAS1R3 receptor was detected in late spermatids where the acrosome was being formed and in the acrosomal cap of acrosome intact sperm. AR is triggered in mice during sperm maturation in the female reproductive tract and by passing through the egg surroundings such as cumulus oophorus cells. This AR onset is independent of the extracellular matrix of the oocyte called zona pellucida. After AR, the relocation of mTAS1R3 to the equatorial segment was observed and the receptor remained exposed to the outer surroundings of the female reproductive tract, where its physiological ligand, the amino acid L-glutamate, naturally occurs. Therefore, we targeted the possible interaction in vitro between the mTAS1R3 and L-glutamate as a part of chemical communication between sperm and egg and used an anti-mTAS1R3-specific antibody to block it. We detected that the acrosome reacted spermatozoa showed a chemotactic response in the presence of L-glutamate during and after the AR, and it is likely that mTAS1R3 acted as its mediator. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Sperm Cohort-Specific Zinc Signature Acquisition and Capacitation-Induced Zinc Flux Regulate Sperm-Oviduct and Sperm-Zona Pellucida Interactions
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(6), 2121; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21062121 - 19 Mar 2020
Cited by 4
Abstract
Building on our recent discovery of the zinc signature phenomenon present in boar, bull, and human spermatozoa, we have further characterized the role of zinc ions in the spermatozoa’s pathway to fertilization. In boar, the zinc signature differed between the three major boar [...] Read more.
Building on our recent discovery of the zinc signature phenomenon present in boar, bull, and human spermatozoa, we have further characterized the role of zinc ions in the spermatozoa’s pathway to fertilization. In boar, the zinc signature differed between the three major boar ejaculate fractions, the initial pre-rich, the sperm-rich, and the post-sperm-rich fraction. These differences set in the sperm ejaculatory sequence establish two major sperm cohorts with marked differences in their sperm capacitation progress. On the subcellular level, we show that the capacitation-induced Zn-ion efflux allows for sperm release from oviductal glycans as analyzed with the oviductal epithelium mimicking glycan binding assay. Sperm zinc efflux also activates zinc-containing enzymes and proteases involved in sperm penetration of the zona pellucida, such as the inner acrosomal membrane matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2). Both MMP2 and the 26S proteasome showed severely reduced activity in the presence of zinc ions, through studies using by gel zymography and the fluorogenic substrates, respectively. In the context of the fertilization-induced oocyte zinc spark and the ensuing oocyte-issued polyspermy-blocking zinc shield, the inhibitory effect of zinc on sperm-borne enzymes may contribute to the fast block of polyspermy. Altogether, our findings establish a new paradigm on the role of zinc ions in sperm function and pave the way for the optimization of animal semen analysis, artificial insemination (AI), and human male-factor infertility diagnostics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Does Melatonin Exert Its Effect on Ram Sperm Capacitation Through Nitric Oxide Synthase Regulation?
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(6), 2093; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21062093 - 18 Mar 2020
Abstract
Nitric oxide (NO·), synthesized from L-arginine by nitric oxide synthase (NOS), is involved in sperm functionality. NOS isoforms have been detected in spermatozoa from different species, and an increment in NOS activity during capacitation has been reported. This work aims to determine the [...] Read more.
Nitric oxide (NO·), synthesized from L-arginine by nitric oxide synthase (NOS), is involved in sperm functionality. NOS isoforms have been detected in spermatozoa from different species, and an increment in NOS activity during capacitation has been reported. This work aims to determine the presence and localization of NOS isoforms in ram spermatozoa and analyse their possible changes during in vitro capacitation. Likewise, we investigated the effect of melatonin on the expression and localization of NOS and NO· levels in capacitated ram spermatozoa. Western blot analysis revealed protein bands associated with neuronal NOS (nNOS) and epithelial NOS (eNOS) but not with inducible NOS (iNOS). However, the three isoforms were detected by indirect immunofluorescence (IFI), and their immunotypes varied over in vitro capacitation with cAMP-elevating agents. NO· levels (evaluated by DAF-2-DA/PI staining) increased after in vitro capacitation, and the presence of L-arginine in the capacitating medium raised NO· production and enhanced the acrosome reaction. Incubation in capacitating conditions with a high-cAMP medium with melatonin modified the NOS distribution evaluated by IFI, but no differences in Western blotting were observed. Melatonin did not alter NO· levels in capacitating conditions, so we could infer that its role in ram sperm capacitation would not be mediated through NO· metabolism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Does the Pre-Ovulatory Pig Oviduct Rule Sperm Capacitation In Vivo Mediating Transcriptomics of Catsper Channels?
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(5), 1840; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21051840 - 07 Mar 2020
Cited by 4
Abstract
Spermatozoa need to conduct a series of biochemical changes termed capacitation in order to fertilize. In vivo, capacitation is sequentially achieved during sperm transport and interaction with the female genital tract, by mechanisms yet undisclosed in detail. However, when boar spermatozoa are stored [...] Read more.
Spermatozoa need to conduct a series of biochemical changes termed capacitation in order to fertilize. In vivo, capacitation is sequentially achieved during sperm transport and interaction with the female genital tract, by mechanisms yet undisclosed in detail. However, when boar spermatozoa are stored in the tubal reservoir pre-ovulation, most appear to be in a non-capacitated state. This study aimed at deciphering the transcriptomics of capacitation-related genes in the pig pre-ovulatory oviduct, following the entry of semen or of sperm-free seminal plasma (SP). Ex-vivo samples of the utero-tubal junction (UTJ) and isthmus were examined with a microarray chip (GeneChip® Porcine Gene 1.0 ST Array, Thermo Fisher Scientific) followed by bioinformatics for enriched analysis of functional categories (GO terms) and restrictive statistics. The results confirmed that entry of semen or of relative amounts of sperm-free SP modifies gene expression of these segments, pre-ovulation. It further shows that enriched genes are differentially associated with pathways relating to sperm motility, acrosome reaction, single fertilization, and the regulation of signal transduction GO terms. In particular, the pre-ovulation oviduct stimulates the Catsper channels for sperm Ca2+ influx, with AKAPs, CATSPERs, and CABYR genes being positive regulators while PKIs and CRISP1 genes appear to be inhibitors of the process. We postulate that the stimulation of PKIs and CRISP1 genes in the pre-ovulation sperm reservoir/adjacent isthmus, mediated by SP, act to prevent premature massive capacitation prior to ovulation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Co-Administration of the Traditional Medicines Hachimi-Jio-Gan and Hochu-Ekki-To Can Reverse Busulfan-Induced Aspermatogenesis
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(5), 1716; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21051716 - 03 Mar 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Busulfan is used as a chemotherapeutic drug to treat childhood and adult chronic myelogenous leukemia, and as an immunosuppressive agent before bone marrow transplantation. A key side effect of busulfan is the alteration of male reproductive function. Infertility caused by anti-cancer treatments has [...] Read more.
Busulfan is used as a chemotherapeutic drug to treat childhood and adult chronic myelogenous leukemia, and as an immunosuppressive agent before bone marrow transplantation. A key side effect of busulfan is the alteration of male reproductive function. Infertility caused by anti-cancer treatments has become a significant concern, but there are currently limited treatments for this condition. Recently, we demonstrated that Gosha-jinki-gan, a traditional Japanese medicine, completely reversed the spermatogenesis defects caused by cancer treatment in mice. Hochu-ekki-to and Hachimi-jio-gan are commonly used to treat male infertility, and Hachimi-jio-gan shares herbal ingredients with Gosha-jinki-gan. Therefore, in the present study, we administered Hachimi-jio-gan and Hochu-ekki-to alone or in combination to mice with severe aspermatogenesis caused by busulfan treatment. We performed testis weight measurements, quantitative histological assessments of the testes and the epididymis, and evaluated sperm counts and morphology. We also assessed the expression of immune mediators and macrophage markers. Treatment with a combination of both the medicines significantly reduced busulfan-induced testicular toxicity when compared to the lone treatment with either medicine. We demonstrated that treatment efficacy was related to a differential impact on testicular inflammation, and that the synergistic effect of co-administration completely reversed the busulfan-induced damage to the reproductive functions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
The Transcriptome of Pig Spermatozoa, and Its Role in Fertility
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(5), 1572; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21051572 - 25 Feb 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
In the study presented here we identified transcriptomic markers for fertility in the cargo of pig ejaculated spermatozoa using porcine-specific micro-arrays (GeneChip® miRNA 4.0 and GeneChip® Porcine Gene 1.0 ST). We report (i) the relative abundance of the ssc-miR-1285, miR-16, miR-4332, [...] Read more.
In the study presented here we identified transcriptomic markers for fertility in the cargo of pig ejaculated spermatozoa using porcine-specific micro-arrays (GeneChip® miRNA 4.0 and GeneChip® Porcine Gene 1.0 ST). We report (i) the relative abundance of the ssc-miR-1285, miR-16, miR-4332, miR-92a, miR-671-5p, miR-4334-5p, miR-425-5p, miR-191, miR-92b-5p and miR-15b miRNAs, and (ii) the presence of 347 up-regulated and 174 down-regulated RNA transcripts in high-fertility breeding boars, based on differences of farrowing rate (FS) and litter size (LS), relative to low-fertility boars in the (Artificial Insemination) AI program. An overrepresentation analysis of the protein class (PANTHER) identified significant fold-increases for C-C chemokine binding (GO:0019957): CCR7, which activates B- and T-lymphocytes, 8-fold increase), XCR1 and CXCR4 (with ubiquitin as a natural ligand, 1.24-fold increase), cytokine receptor activity (GO:0005126): IL23R receptor of the IL23 protein, associated to JAK2 and STAT3, 3.4-fold increase), the TGF-receptor (PC00035) genes ACVR1C and ACVR2B (12-fold increase). Moreover, two micro-RNAs (miR-221 and mir-621) were down- and up-regulated, respectively, in high-fertility males. In conclusion, boars with different fertility performance possess a wide variety of differentially expressed RNA present in spermatozoa that would be attractive targets as non-invasive molecular markers for predicting fertility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Molecular Mechanisms Involved in the Impairment of Boar Sperm Motility by Peroxynitrite-Induced Nitrosative Stress
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(4), 1208; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21041208 - 11 Feb 2020
Cited by 3
Abstract
Excessive levels of reactive nitrogen species (RNS) produce nitrosative stress. Among RNS is peroxynitrite, a highly reactive free radical generated when nitric oxide reacts with superoxide anion. Peroxynitrite effects have been mainly studied in somatic cells, and in spermatozoa the majority of studies [...] Read more.
Excessive levels of reactive nitrogen species (RNS) produce nitrosative stress. Among RNS is peroxynitrite, a highly reactive free radical generated when nitric oxide reacts with superoxide anion. Peroxynitrite effects have been mainly studied in somatic cells, and in spermatozoa the majority of studies are focused in humans. The aim of this study is to investigate the in vitro peroxynitrite effect on boar spermatozoa functions and the molecular mechanisms involved. Spermatozoa were exposed to the donor 3-morpholinosydnonimine (SIN-1) in non-capacitating or capacitating medium, motility was evaluated by CASA, functional parameters by flow cytometry and sperm protein phosphorylation by Western blotting. SIN-1 treatment, that significantly increases peroxynitrite levels in boar spermatozoa, potentiates the capacitating-stimulated phosphorylation of cAMP-dependent protein kinase 1 (PKA) substrates and GSK-3α. SIN-1 induced peroxynitrite does not decrease sperm viability, but significantly reduces sperm motility, progressive motility, velocities and motility coefficients. Concomitantly, peroxynitrite does not affect mitochondrial membrane potential, plasma membrane fluidity, or A23187-induced acrosome reaction. However, peroxynitrite significantly increases sperm lipid peroxidation in both media. In conclusion, peroxynitrite compromises boar sperm motility without affecting mitochondrial activity. Although peroxynitrite potentiates the phosphorylation of pathways leading to sperm motility, it also causes oxidative stress that might explain, at least partially, the motility impairment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Survival Motor Neuron Protein Participates in Mouse Germ Cell Development and Spermatogonium Maintenance
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(3), 794; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21030794 - 25 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The defective human survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene leads to spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the most common genetic cause of infant mortality. We previously reported that loss of SMN results in rapid differentiation of Drosophila germline stem cells and mouse embryonic [...] Read more.
The defective human survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene leads to spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the most common genetic cause of infant mortality. We previously reported that loss of SMN results in rapid differentiation of Drosophila germline stem cells and mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), indicating that SMN also plays important roles in germ cell development and stem cell biology. Here, we show that in healthy mice, SMN is highly expressed in the gonadal tissues, prepubertal spermatogonia, and adult spermatocytes, whereas low SMN expression is found in differentiated spermatid and sperm. In SMA-like mice, the growth of testis tissues is retarded, accompanied with gamete development abnormalities and loss of the spermatogonia-specific marker. Consistently, knockdown of Smn1 in spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) leads to a compromised regeneration capacity in vitro and in vivo in transplantation experiments. In SMA-like mice, apoptosis and accumulation of the R-loop structure were significantly elevated, indicating that SMN plays a critical role in the survival of male germ cells. The present work demonstrates that SMN, in addition to its critical roles in neuronal development, participates in mouse germ cell and spermatogonium maintenance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Association of α/β-Hydrolase D16B with Bovine Conception Rate and Sperm Plasma Membrane Lipid Composition
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(2), 627; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21020627 - 17 Jan 2020
Abstract
We have identified a Holstein sire named Tarantino who had been approved for artificial insemination that is based on normal semen characteristics (i.e., morphology, thermoresistance, motility, sperm concentration), but had no progeny after 412 first inseminations, resulting in a non-return rate (NRdev [...] Read more.
We have identified a Holstein sire named Tarantino who had been approved for artificial insemination that is based on normal semen characteristics (i.e., morphology, thermoresistance, motility, sperm concentration), but had no progeny after 412 first inseminations, resulting in a non-return rate (NRdev) of −29. Using whole genome association analysis and next generation sequencing, an associated nonsense variant in the α/β-hydrolase domain-containing 16B gene (ABHD16B) on bovine chromosome 13 was identified. The frequency of the mutant allele in the German Holstein population was determined to be 0.0018 in 222,645 investigated cattle specimens. The mutant allele was traced back to Whirlhill Kingpin (bornFeb. 13th, 1959) as potential founder. The expression of ABHD16B was detected by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry in testis and epididymis of control bulls. A lipidome comparison of the plasma membrane of fresh semen from carriers and controls showed significant differences in the concentration of phosphatidylcholine (PC), diacylglycerol (DAG), ceramide (Cer), sphingomyelin (SM), and phosphatidylcholine (-ether) (PC O-), indicating that ABHD16B plays a role in lipid biosynthesis. The altered lipid contents may explain the reduced fertilization ability of mutated sperms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
N-Butyldeoxygalactonojirimycin Induces Reversible Infertility in Male CD Rats
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(1), 301; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21010301 - 31 Dec 2019
Abstract
This study shows for the first time that an iminosugar exerts anti-spermiogenic effect, inducing reversible infertility in a species that is not related to C57BL/6 male mice. In CD rats, N-butyldeoxygalactonojirimycin (NB-DGJ) caused reversible infertility at 150 mg/kg/day when administered [...] Read more.
This study shows for the first time that an iminosugar exerts anti-spermiogenic effect, inducing reversible infertility in a species that is not related to C57BL/6 male mice. In CD rats, N-butyldeoxygalactonojirimycin (NB-DGJ) caused reversible infertility at 150 mg/kg/day when administered daily as single oral dose. NB-DGJ inhibited CD rat-derived testicular β-glucosidase 2 (GBA2) activity at 10 µM but did not inhibit CD rat-derived testicular ceramide-specific glucosyltransferase (CGT) at doses up to 1000 µM. Pharmacokinetic studies revealed that sufficient plasma levels of NB-DGJ (50 µM) were achieved to inhibit the enzyme. Fertility was blocked after 35 days of treatment and reversed one week after termination of treatment. The rapid return of fertility indicates that the major effect of NB-DGJ may be epididymal rather than testicular. Collectively, our in vitro and in vivo studies in rats suggest that iminosugars should continue to be pursued as potential lead compounds for development of oral, non-hormonal male contraceptives. The study also adds evidence that GBA2, and not CGT, is the major target for the contraceptive effect of iminosugars. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Elucidating the Role of K+ Channels during In Vitro Capacitation of Boar Spermatozoa: Do SLO1 Channels Play a Crucial Role?
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(24), 6330; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20246330 - 15 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
This study sought to identify and localize SLO1 channels in boar spermatozoa by immunoblotting and immunofluorescence, and to determine their physiological role during in vitro sperm capacitation. Sperm samples from 14 boars were incubated in a capacitation medium for 300 min in the [...] Read more.
This study sought to identify and localize SLO1 channels in boar spermatozoa by immunoblotting and immunofluorescence, and to determine their physiological role during in vitro sperm capacitation. Sperm samples from 14 boars were incubated in a capacitation medium for 300 min in the presence of paxilline (PAX), a specific SLO1-channel blocker, added either at 0 min or after 240 min of incubation. Negative controls were incubated in capacitation medium, and positive controls in capacitation medium plus tetraethyl ammonium (TEA), a general K+-channel blocker, also added at 0 min or after 240 min of incubation. In all samples, acrosome exocytosis was triggered with progesterone after 240 min of incubation. Sperm motility and kinematics, integrity of plasma and acrosome membranes, membrane lipid disorder, intracellular calcium levels and acrosin activity were evaluated after 0, 60, 120, 180, 240, 250, 270 and 300 min of incubation. In boar spermatozoa, SLO1 channels were found to have 80 kDa and be localized in the anterior postacrosomal region and the mid and principal piece of the tail; their specific blockage through PAX resulted in altered calcium levels and acrosome exocytosis. As expected, TEA blocker impaired in vitro sperm capacitation, by altering sperm motility and kinematics and calcium levels. In conclusion, SLO1 channels are crucial for the acrosome exocytosis induced by progesterone in in vitro capacitated boar spermatozoa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Effect of AQP Inhibition on Boar Sperm Cryotolerance Depends on the Intrinsic Freezability of the Ejaculate
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(24), 6255; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20246255 - 11 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Aquaporins (AQPs) are transmembrane channels with permeability to water and small solutes that can be classified according to their structure and permeability into orthodox AQPs, aquaglyceroporins (GLPs), and superAQPs. In boar spermatozoa, AQPs are related to osmoregulation and play a critical role in [...] Read more.
Aquaporins (AQPs) are transmembrane channels with permeability to water and small solutes that can be classified according to their structure and permeability into orthodox AQPs, aquaglyceroporins (GLPs), and superAQPs. In boar spermatozoa, AQPs are related to osmoregulation and play a critical role in maturation and motility activation. In addition, their levels differ between ejaculates with good and poor cryotolerance (GFE and PFE, respectively). The aim of this work was to elucidate whether the involvement of AQPs in the sperm response to cryopreservation relies on the intrinsic freezability of the ejaculate. With this purpose, two different molecules: phloretin (PHL) and 1,3-propanediol (PDO), were used to inhibit sperm AQPs in GFE and PFE. Boar sperm samples were treated with three different concentrations of each inhibitor prior to cryopreservation, and sperm quality and functionality parameters were evaluated in fresh samples and after 30 and 240 min of thawing. Ejaculates were classified as GFE or PFE, according to their post-thaw sperm viability and motility. While the presence of PHL caused a decrease in sperm quality and function compared to the control, samples treated with PDO exhibited better quality and function parameters than the control. In addition, the effects of both inhibitors were more apparent in GFE than in PFE. In conclusion, AQP inhibition has more notable consequences in GFE than in PFE, which can be related to the difference in relative levels of AQPs between these two groups of samples. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
First Insights on the Presence of the Unfolded Protein Response in Human Spermatozoa
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(21), 5518; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20215518 - 05 Nov 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The unfolded protein response (UPR) is involved in protein quality control and is activated in response to several stressors. Although in testis the UPR mechanisms are well described, their presence in spermatozoa is contentious. We aimed to investigate the presence of UPR-related proteins [...] Read more.
The unfolded protein response (UPR) is involved in protein quality control and is activated in response to several stressors. Although in testis the UPR mechanisms are well described, their presence in spermatozoa is contentious. We aimed to investigate the presence of UPR-related proteins in human sperm and the impact of oxidative stress induction in UPR activation. To identify UPR-related proteins in human sperm, a bioinformatic approach was adopted. To explore the activation of UPR, sperm were exposed to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and motility, vitality, and the levels of UPR-related proteins were assessed. We identified 97 UPR-related proteins in human sperm and showed, for the first time, the presence of HSF1, GADD34, and phosphorylated eIF2α. Additionally, the exposure of human sperm to H2O2 resulted in a significant decrease in sperm viability and motility and an increase in the levels of HSF1, HSP90, HSP60, HSP27, and eIF2α; all proteins involved in sensing and response to unfolded proteins. This study gave us a first insight into the presence of UPR mechanisms in the male gamete. However, the belief that sperm are devoid of transcription and translation highlight the need to clarify if these pathways are activated in sperm in the same way as in somatic cells. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessArticle
Deletion of a Seminal Gene Cluster Reinforces a Crucial Role of SVS2 in Male Fertility
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(18), 4557; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20184557 - 14 Sep 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Multiple genes, whose functions or expression are overlapping, compensate for the loss of one gene. A gene cluster in the mouse genome encodes five seminal vesicle proteins (SVS2, SVS3, SVS4, SVS5, and SVS6). These proteins are produced by male rodents and function in [...] Read more.
Multiple genes, whose functions or expression are overlapping, compensate for the loss of one gene. A gene cluster in the mouse genome encodes five seminal vesicle proteins (SVS2, SVS3, SVS4, SVS5, and SVS6). These proteins are produced by male rodents and function in formation of the copulatory plug following mating. SVS2 plays an essential role in the successful internal fertilization by protecting the sperm membrane against a uterine immune attack. We hypothesized that the four remaining seminal vesicle proteins (SVPs) of this gene cluster may partially/completely compensate for the deficiency of SVS2. For confirming our hypothesis, we generated mice lacking the entire SVP-encoding gene cluster and compared their fecundity with Svs2-deficient (Svs2−/−) mice; that is, mice deficient in Svs2 alone. A single loxP site remained after the deletion of the Svs2 gene. Therefore, we inserted another loxP site by combining the CRISPR/Cas9 system with single-stranded oligodeoxynucleotides (ssODN). Male mice lacking the entire SVP-encoding gene cluster (Svs2–6−/− mice) and thereby all five SVP proteins, generated by the deletion of 100kbp genomic DNA, showed low fecundity. However, the fecundity level was comparable with that from Svs2−/− male mice. Our results demonstrate that SVS3, SVS4, SVS5, and SVS6 do not function in the protection of sperm against a uterine immune attack in the absence of SVS2. Thus, Svs2 is the critical gene in the SVP gene cluster. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Sperm Differentiation: The Role of Trafficking of Proteins
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(10), 3702; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21103702 - 24 May 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Sperm differentiation encompasses a complex sequence of morphological changes that takes place in the seminiferous epithelium. In this process, haploid round spermatids undergo substantial structural and functional alterations, resulting in highly polarized sperm. Hallmark changes during the differentiation process include the formation of [...] Read more.
Sperm differentiation encompasses a complex sequence of morphological changes that takes place in the seminiferous epithelium. In this process, haploid round spermatids undergo substantial structural and functional alterations, resulting in highly polarized sperm. Hallmark changes during the differentiation process include the formation of new organelles, chromatin condensation and nuclear shaping, elimination of residual cytoplasm, and assembly of the sperm flagella. To achieve these transformations, spermatids have unique mechanisms for protein trafficking that operate in a coordinated fashion. Microtubules and filaments of actin are the main tracks used to facilitate the transport mechanisms, assisted by motor and non-motor proteins, for delivery of vesicular and non-vesicular cargos to specific sites. This review integrates recent findings regarding the role of protein trafficking in sperm differentiation. Although a complete characterization of the interactome of proteins involved in these temporal and spatial processes is not yet known, we propose a model based on the current literature as a framework for future investigations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessReview
Sperm Cryodamage in Ruminants: Understanding the Molecular Changes Induced by the Cryopreservation Process to Optimize Sperm Quality
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(8), 2781; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21082781 - 16 Apr 2020
Cited by 5
Abstract
Sperm cryopreservation represents a powerful tool for livestock breeding. Several efforts have been made to improve the efficiency of sperm cryopreservation in different ruminant species. However, a significant amount of sperm still suffers considerable cryodamage, which may affect sperm quality and fertility. Recently, [...] Read more.
Sperm cryopreservation represents a powerful tool for livestock breeding. Several efforts have been made to improve the efficiency of sperm cryopreservation in different ruminant species. However, a significant amount of sperm still suffers considerable cryodamage, which may affect sperm quality and fertility. Recently, the use of different “omics” technologies in sperm cryobiology, especially proteomics studies, has led to a better understanding of the molecular modifications induced by sperm cryopreservation, facilitating the identification of different freezability biomarkers and certain proteins that can be added before cryopreservation to enhance sperm cryosurvival. This review provides an updated overview of the molecular mechanisms involved in sperm cryodamage, which are in part responsible for the structural, functional and fertility changes observed in frozen–thawed ruminant sperm. Moreover, the molecular basis of those factors that can affect the sperm freezing resilience of different ruminant species is also discussed as well as the molecular aspects of those novel strategies that have been developed to reduce sperm cryodamage, including new cryoprotectants, antioxidants, proteins, nanoparticles and vitrification. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessReview
The Roles of NO and H2S in Sperm Biology: Recent Advances and New Perspectives
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(6), 2174; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21062174 - 21 Mar 2020
Abstract
After being historically considered as noxious agents, nitric oxide (NO) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are now listed as gasotransmitters, gaseous molecules that play a key role in a variety of cellular functions. Both NO and H2S are endogenously produced, [...] Read more.
After being historically considered as noxious agents, nitric oxide (NO) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are now listed as gasotransmitters, gaseous molecules that play a key role in a variety of cellular functions. Both NO and H2S are endogenously produced, enzymatically or non-enzymatically, and interact with each other in a range of cells and tissues. In spite of the great advances achieved in recent decades in other biological systems, knowledge about H2S function and interactions with NO in sperm biology is in its infancy. Here, we aim to provide an update on the importance of these molecules in the physiology of the male gamete. Special emphasis is given to the most recent advances in the metabolism, mechanisms of action, and effects (both physiological and pathophysiological) of these gasotransmitters. This manuscript also illustrates the physiological implications of NO and H2S observed in other cell types, which might be important for sperm function. The relevance of these gasotransmitters to several signaling pathways within sperm cells highlights their potential use for the improvement and successful application of assisted reproductive technologies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessReview
Molecular Biology of Spermatogenesis: Novel Targets of Apparently Idiopathic Male Infertility
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(5), 1728; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21051728 - 03 Mar 2020
Cited by 3
Abstract
Male infertility affects half of infertile couples and, currently, a relevant percentage of cases of male infertility is considered as idiopathic. Although the male contribution to human fertilization has traditionally been restricted to sperm DNA, current evidence suggest that a relevant number of [...] Read more.
Male infertility affects half of infertile couples and, currently, a relevant percentage of cases of male infertility is considered as idiopathic. Although the male contribution to human fertilization has traditionally been restricted to sperm DNA, current evidence suggest that a relevant number of sperm transcripts and proteins are involved in acrosome reactions, sperm‒oocyte fusion and, once released into the oocyte, embryo growth and development. The aim of this review is to provide updated and comprehensive insight into the molecular biology of spermatogenesis, including evidence on spermatogenetic failure and underlining the role of the sperm-carried molecular factors involved in oocyte fertilization and embryo growth. This represents the first step in the identification of new possible diagnostic and, possibly, therapeutic markers in the field of apparently idiopathic male infertility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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Open AccessReview
Proteomic Analyses of Human Sperm Cells: Understanding the Role of Proteins and Molecular Pathways Affecting Male Reproductive Health
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(5), 1621; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21051621 - 27 Feb 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Human sperm proteomics research has gained increasing attention lately, which provides complete information about the functional state of the spermatozoa. Changes in the sperm proteome are evident in several male infertility associated conditions. Global proteomic tools, such as liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry [...] Read more.
Human sperm proteomics research has gained increasing attention lately, which provides complete information about the functional state of the spermatozoa. Changes in the sperm proteome are evident in several male infertility associated conditions. Global proteomic tools, such as liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight, are used to profile the sperm proteins to identify the molecular pathways that are defective in infertile men. This review discusses the use of proteomic techniques to analyze the spermatozoa proteome. It also highlights the general steps involved in global proteomic approaches including bioinformatic analysis of the sperm proteomic data. Also, we have presented the findings of major proteomic studies and possible biomarkers in the diagnosis and therapeutics of male infertility. Extensive research on sperm proteome will help in understanding the role of fertility associated sperm proteins. Validation of the sperm proteins as biomarkers in different male infertility conditions may aid the physician in better clinical management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Molecular Regulation of Spermatozoa Function)
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