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Science 299 (5615): 2054-2058

Copyright © 2003 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Identification of a Testicular Odorant Receptor Mediating Human Sperm Chemotaxis

Marc Spehr,1 Günter Gisselmann,1 Alexandra Poplawski,1 Jeffrey A. Riffell,2 Christian H. Wetzel,1 Richard K. Zimmer,23 Hanns Hatt1*

Although it has been known for some time that olfactory receptors (ORs) reside in spermatozoa, the function of these ORs is unknown. Here, we identified, cloned, and functionally expressed a previously undescribed human testicular OR, hOR17-4. With the use of ratiofluorometric imaging, Ca2+ signals were induced by a small subset of applied chemical stimuli, establishing the molecular receptive fields for the recombinantly expressed receptor in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells and the native receptor in human spermatozoa. Bourgeonal was a powerful agonist for both recombinant and native receptor types, as well as a strong chemoattractant in subsequent behavioral bioassays. In contrast, undecanal was a potent OR antagonist to bourgeonal and related compounds. Taken together, these results indicate that hOR17-4 functions in human sperm chemotaxis and may be a critical component of the fertilization process.

1 Department of Cell Physiology, Ruhr University Bochum, 150 University Street, D-44780 Bochum, Germany.
2 Department of Biology,
3 Neurosciences Program and Brain Research Institute, University of California, 621 Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: hanns.hatt{at}

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