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Sperm are highly specialized cells adapted to achieve a single goal: fertilize an egg. Along the road to fertilization, sperm must embark on a lengthy journey to the female oviduct, avoiding several fatal stresses that occur when they pass through different physiological environments. However, the events that allow sperm cells to achieve fertilization under these conditions are only partially understood.
In a study published in The FEBS Journal, researchers at the University of Tsukuba and Cornell University report they have uncovered a cell volume regulator in sperm cells that plays a key role in maintaining their shape and fertility.
Cell - Mass - Water - Cell - Volume
Most of a cell's mass consists of water, which can determine a cell's volume. The membrane that surrounds each cell is leaky, so cells can take in or release excess water depending on how much water surrounds them, a phenomenon known as osmosis. This property is analogous to how a sponge behaves—like a sponge taking on too much water, changes in water levels can drastically change the volume, and eventually the shape, of a cell.
"Cells have sensor mechanisms that let them compensate for changes in their osmotic environment," says corresponding author Atsushi Asano, an assistant professor of the University of Tsukuba. "Without these compensatory sensors, cells would experience excessive volume changes leading to a ruptured membrane or other morphological problems. This type of sensor is fairly common in cells, but we were surprised to find one that plays a significant role in the function of sperm cells."
Mice - Dioxygenase - CDO - CDO - Protein
Previously, it was found that male mice lacking cysteine dioxygenase (CDO) are infertile. CDO is a protein known to make the amino acid taurine, which, in turn, is known to play a role in osmosis. While these facts are not new, the precise role of CDO and taurine in fertilization has been a long-standing controversy.
In the study,...
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