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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Inwardly rectifying K(+) channels in spermatogenic cells: functional expression and implication in sperm capacitation.

To fertilize, mammalian sperm must complete a maturational process called capacitation. It is thought that the membrane potential of sperm hyperpolarizes during capacitation, possibly due to the opening of K(+) channels, but electrophysiological evidence is lacking. In this report, using patch-clamp recordings obtained from isolated mouse spermatogenic cells we document the presence of a novel K(+)-selective inwardly rectifying current. Macroscopic current activated at membrane potentials below the equilibrium potential for K(+) and its magnitude was dependent on the external K(+) concentration. The channels selected K(+) over other monovalent cations. Current was virtually absent when external K(+) was replaced with Na(+) or N-methyl-D-glucamine. Addition of Cs(+) or Ba(2+) (IC(50) of approximately 15 microM) to the external solution effectively blocked K(+) current. Dialyzing the cells with a Mg(2+)-free solution did not affect channel activity. Cytosolic acidification reversibly inhibited the current. We verified that the resting membrane potential of mouse sperm changed from -52 +/- 6 to -66 +/- 9 mV during capacitation in vitro. Notably, application of 0.3-1 mM Ba(2+) during capacitation prevented this hyperpolarization and decreased the subsequent exocytotic response to zona pellucida. A mechanism is proposed whereby opening of inwardly rectifying K(+) channels may produce hyperpolarization under physiological conditions and contribute to the cellular changes that give rise to the capacitated state in mature sperm.[1]


  1. Inwardly rectifying K(+) channels in spermatogenic cells: functional expression and implication in sperm capacitation. Muñoz-Garay, C., De la Vega-Beltrán, J.L., Delgado, R., Labarca, P., Felix, R., Darszon, A. Dev. Biol. (2001) [Pubmed]
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