Dorke Meyer 1 , Anja Voigt 2 , 3 , Patricia Widmayer 4 , Heike Borth 1 , Sandra Huebner 2 , Andreas Breit 1 , Susan Marschall 5 , Martin Hrabé de Angelis 5 , Ulrich Boehm 3 , Wolfgang Meyerhof 2 , Thomas Gudermann 1 , Ingrid Boekhoff 1 , *
29 February 2012
During their transit through the female genital tract, sperm have to recognize and discriminate numerous chemical compounds. However, our current knowledge of the molecular identity of appropriate chemosensory receptor proteins in sperm is still rudimentary. Considering that members of the Tas1r family of taste receptors are able to discriminate between a broad diversity of hydrophilic chemosensory substances, the expression of taste receptors in mammalian spermatozoa was examined.
The present manuscript documents that Tas1r1 and Tas1r3, which form the functional receptor for monosodium glutamate (umami) in taste buds on the tongue, are expressed in murine and human spermatozoa, where their localization is restricted to distinct segments of the flagellum and the acrosomal cap of the sperm head. Employing a Tas1r1-deficient mCherry reporter mouse strain, we found that Tas1r1 gene deletion resulted in spermatogenic abnormalities. In addition, a significant increase in spontaneous acrosomal reaction was observed in Tas1r1 null mutant sperm whereas acrosomal secretion triggered by isolated zona pellucida or the Ca 2+ ionophore A23187 was not different from wild-type spermatozoa. Remarkably, cytosolic Ca 2+ levels in freshly isolated Tas1r1-deficient sperm were significantly higher compared to wild-type cells. Moreover, a significantly higher basal cAMP concentration was detected in freshly isolated Tas1r1-deficient epididymal spermatozoa, whereas upon inhibition of phosphodiesterase or sperm capacitation, the amount of cAMP was not different between both genotypes.
Since Ca 2+ and cAMP control fundamental processes during the sequential process of fertilization, we propose that the identified taste receptors and coupled signaling cascades keep sperm in a chronically quiescent state until they arrive in the vicinity of the egg - either by constitutive receptor activity and/or by tonic receptor activation by gradients of diverse chemical compounds in different compartments of the female reproductive tract.