Studies of sperm from mutant mice suggesting that two neurotransmitter receptors are important to the zona pellucida-initiated acrosome reaction

Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, University of California at Davis, School of Medicine, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, USA.
Molecular Reproduction and Development (Impact Factor: 2.53). 10/2005; 72(2):250-8. DOI: 10.1002/mrd.20336
Source: PubMed


Two sperm neurotransmitter receptor/channels, the glycine receptor (GlyR) and a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor containing an alpha7 subunit (alpha7nAChR) were previously shown to be important to the mouse acrosome reaction (AR) initiated by solubilized egg zona pellucida (ZP). Here, we investigated whether sperm from homozygous mutant mice with a single amino acid mutation in the alpha subunit of their GlyR and sperm from homozygous mutant mice with an engineered disruption of the gene for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha7 subunit could undergo the AR on ZP-intact eggs. Wild-type and mutant sperm were treated with 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate (QNB), known to be an inhibitor of the ZP-initiated AR (but shown in the present work not to inhibit the acetylcholine-initiated AR). The ZP-initiated AR on ZP-intact eggs should occur only in sperm not treated with QNB. The absence of such an increase in the untreated mutant sperm would demonstrate that such sperm were unable to respond to the intact ZP. The results demonstrated for the first time that GlyR mutant sperm do not undergo the AR on ZP-intact mouse eggs, and that their ability to fertilize is inhibited by 63% in vitro. Moreover, we found that GlyR mutant sperm exhibited normal capacitation and confirmed that they not undergo the AR initiated by solubilized mouse ZP. Our studies demonstrated for the first time that sperm from mutant alpha7nAChR mice exhibit normal capacitation, do not undergo the AR in response to acetylcholine, solubilized ZP or on ZP-intact eggs, and display a 25% reduction in fertilization in vitro. This is the first genetic evidence for the importance of the alpha7nAChR in the ZP-initiated AR. While defects in either the GlyR or the alpha7nAChR completely inhibit the ZP-initiated AR, fertilization by these mutant sperm can still occur in vitro, probably due to sperm that complete spontaneous AR on the ZP.

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    • "The acrosome is a secretory granule-like organelle in the anterior two-thirds of the sperm head, and the acrosome reaction (AR) is a modified exocytotic event that is essential for fertilization (Yanagimachi 1994, Meizel 2004). Previous pharmacological and immunochemical studies showed the involvement of a sperm GLR in the porcine, human, mouse, and hamster AR initiated by glycine and the oocyte zona pellucida or its glycoprotein ZP3 (Melendrez & Meizel 1995, Sato et al. 2000b, Llanos et al. 2001, Bray et al. 2002, Meizel & Son 2005). The porcine and mouse sperm studies utilized a mAb (mAb4a) that recognizes all the subunit isoforms, while the human studies used a polyclonal antibody that recognizes both the GLRA1 and GLRA2 subunits but does not distinguish between them (Melendrez & Meizel 1996, Sato et al. 2000a, Bray et al. 2002). "
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    ABSTRACT: The human sperm surface glycine receptor (GLR) plays a role in an important fertilization event, the sperm acrosome reaction. Here, by western blot analysis, we report the presence of GLRA1, GLRA2, GLRA3, and GLRB subunits in human sperm. Immunolocalization studies showed that the GLRA1 and GLRA2 subunits are present in the equatorial region, the GLRA3 subunit in the flagellar principal piece, and the GLRB subunit in the acrosomal region of sperm. This first demonstration of isoforms of the sperm GLRA subunit and of a differential spatial distribution of the alpha and beta subunits on the surface of mammalian sperm suggests the possibility that human sperm GLRs have more than one function.
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    ABSTRACT: In this study we investigate the role of the CHRNA7 subunit (also known as the alpha7 subunit) of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in mouse sperm function. We confirm by reverse-transcription-polymerase chain reaction the expression in adult mouse testis of Chrna7 mRNA and demonstrate the subunit's presence in mouse sperm by immunoblot. Alpha-bungarotoxin binds a range of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits, including the CHRNA7 subunit. Localization studies using a fluorescent alpha-bungarotoxin-tetramethyl-rhodamine conjugate revealed specific binding sites on the midpiece of mouse sperm with fainter alpha-bungarotoxin binding on the remainder of the flagellum. Mice engineered with a double-null disruption of the Chrna7 gene displayed only faint fluorescence on the midpiece, suggesting that the CHRNA7 contributed the majority of the observed alpha-bungarotoxin binding sites. The location of alpha-bungarotoxin binding suggested that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors may play an ionotropic role in sperm motility. Sperm from Chrna7(-/-) mice display no difference in number, morphology, viability or spontaneous acrosome reaction rate compared with Chrna7(+/+) sperm. Studies using computer-assisted sperm analysis indicate the motility of Chrna7(-/-) sperm is significantly impaired. This impairment is characterized by significantly reduced swimming velocities, failure to maintain vigorous swimming, and lower levels of hyperactivated swimming patterns in Chrna7(-/-) sperm compared with Chrna7(+/+) sperm. This is the first genetic evidence that sperm nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are important for maintenance of normal sperm motility.
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