Research ArticleReproductive Biology

Male Fertility Depends on Ca2+ Absorption by TRPV6 in Epididymal Epithelia

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Science Signaling  03 May 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 171, pp. ra27
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2001791

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A Good Environment Is Crucial

Male infertility can result from decreased production of or functional deficits in sperm. Ca2+ signaling plays a crucial role in sperm function, and, here, Weissgerber et al. uncovered a role for the Ca2+-selective TRPV6 channel in regulating Ca2+ concentration in the lumen of the epididymis as well as sperm motility and survival. Sperm maturation—including the acquisition of motility—occurs in the epididymis, after their exit from the testis. Male transgenic mice bearing an inactive form of TRPV6 showed decreased fertility, and the motility, viability, and in vitro capacity to fertilize eggs of sperm isolated from their caudal epididymides were impaired. TRPV6 was present in epididymal epithelial cells but not in the sperm themselves, and the Ca2+ concentration in the lumens of the epididymides of transgenic mice was 10 times higher than in wild-type mice. Moreover, sperm exposed to comparable extracellular Ca2+ concentrations showed an increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration. The authors thus conclude that TRPV6 channels function to decrease the Ca2+ concentration of the intraluminal fluid in the epididymis and propose that the impaired function and survival of sperm in the transgenic mice results from the disturbed microenvironment in the epididymal fluid.