[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Guanylyl cyclases (GCs), which synthesize the messenger cyclic guanosine 3',5'-monophosphate, control several sensory functions, such as phototransduction, chemosensation, and thermosensation, in many species from worms to mammals. The GC chemoreceptor in sea urchin sperm can decode chemoattractant concentrations with single-molecule sensitivity. The molecular and cellular underpinnings of such ultrasensitivity are not known for any eukaryotic chemoreceptor. In this paper, we show that an exquisitely high density of 3 × 10(5) GC chemoreceptors and subnanomolar ligand affinity provide a high ligand-capture efficacy and render sperm perfect absorbers. The GC activity is terminated within 150 ms by dephosphorylation steps of the receptor, which provides a means for precise control of the GC lifetime and which reduces "molecule noise." Compared with other ultrasensitive sensory systems, the 10-fold signal amplification by the GC receptor is surprisingly low. The hallmarks of this signaling mechanism provide a blueprint for chemical sensing in small compartments, such as olfactory cilia, insect antennae, or even synaptic boutons.
The Journal of Cell Biology 08/2014; 206(4):541-57. · 10.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The sperm-specific CatSper channel controls the intracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)) and, thereby, the swimming behaviour of sperm. In humans, CatSper is directly activated by progesterone and prostaglandins-female factors that stimulate Ca(2+) influx. Other factors including neurotransmitters, chemokines, and odorants also affect sperm function by changing [Ca(2+)](i). Several ligands, notably odorants, have been proposed to control Ca(2+) entry and motility via G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and cAMP-signalling pathways. Here, we show that odorants directly activate CatSper without involving GPCRs and cAMP. Moreover, membrane-permeable analogues of cyclic nucleotides that have been frequently used to study cAMP-mediated Ca(2+) signalling also activate CatSper directly via an extracellular site. Thus, CatSper or associated protein(s) harbour promiscuous binding sites that can host various ligands. These results contest current concepts of Ca(2+) signalling by GPCR and cAMP in mammalian sperm: ligands thought to activate metabotropic pathways, in fact, act via a common ionotropic mechanism. We propose that the CatSper channel complex serves as a polymodal sensor for multiple chemical cues that assist sperm during their voyage across the female genital tract.
The EMBO Journal 02/2012; 31(7):1654-65. · 9.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the oviduct, cumulus cells that surround the oocyte release progesterone. In human sperm, progesterone stimulates a Ca(2+) increase by a non-genomic mechanism. The Ca(2+) signal has been proposed to control chemotaxis, hyperactivation and acrosomal exocytosis of sperm. However, the underlying signalling mechanism has remained mysterious. Here we show that progesterone activates the sperm-specific, pH-sensitive CatSper Ca(2+) channel. We found that both progesterone and alkaline pH stimulate a rapid Ca(2+) influx with almost no latency, incompatible with a signalling pathway involving metabotropic receptors and second messengers. The Ca(2+) signals evoked by alkaline pH and progesterone are inhibited by the Ca(v) channel blockers NNC 55-0396 and mibefradil. Patch-clamp recordings from sperm reveal an alkaline-activated current carried by mono- and divalent ions that exhibits all the hallmarks of sperm-specific CatSper Ca(2+) channels. Progesterone substantially enhances the CatSper current. The alkaline- and progesterone-activated CatSper current is inhibited by both drugs. Our results resolve a long-standing controversy over the non-genomic progesterone signalling. In human sperm, either the CatSper channel itself or an associated protein serves as the non-genomic progesterone receptor. The identification of CatSper channel blockers will greatly facilitate the study of Ca(2+) signalling in sperm and help to define further the physiological role of progesterone and CatSper.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ketalization of the biomolecule progesterone with (6-bromo-7-hydroxycoumarin-4-yl)ethane-1,2-diol gives the photolabile progesterone derivatives 3 and 4. These compounds display dramatically reduced bioactivity and release progesterone upon irradiation with UV/vis or IR light. In particular, 4 can be used to perform concentration-jump experiments with high temporal and spatial resolution that allows one to study elegantly the mechanisms of rapid nongenomic cellular events evoked by progesterone. The usefulness of 4 was demonstrated by measurement of changes in swimming behavior of single human sperm caused by progesterone-induced Ca(2+) influx in the sperm flagellum.
Journal of the American Chemical Society 06/2009; · 10.68 Impact Factor