Evidence for the function of hyperactivated motility in sperm.
After insemination, mammalian sperm undergo a striking change in flagellar beat pattern, termed hyperactivation. In low-viscosity culture medium, nonhyperactivated sperm flagella generate relatively symmetrical, low-amplitude waves, while hyperactivated sperm flagella generate an asymetrical beating pattern that results in nonprogressive movement. Since sperm encounter highly viscous and viscoelastic fluids in the female reproductive tract, the progress of hyperactivated sperm was compared with that of nonhyperactivated and transitional sperm in media of increasing viscosity. Hamster sperm obtained from the caudal epididymis were incubated in a medium that promotes capacitation. After 0, 3, and 4 h of incubation, the majority of the sperm exhibited, respectively, activated, transitional, and hyperactivated motility. At each of these time points, aliquots of sperm were removed from incubation and added to solutions of 0, 5%, 10%, 20%, and 30% Ficoll in medium. Samples containing mostly hyperactivated sperm (4 h) maintained higher swimming and flagellar velocities and were able to generate greater forces in response to increased viscous loading than activated sperm (0 h). Transitional sperm (3 h) showed an intermediate response. The paths of hyperactivated sperm through solutions of 20% and 30% Ficoll were considerably straighter than those made through medium alone. This is the first demonstration that hyperactivation can confer a mechanical advantage upon sperm in the oviduct where they may encounter viscous oviductal fluid and a viscoelastic cumulus matrix.
Suarez, SS; Katz, DF; Owen, DH; Andrew, JB; Powell, RL
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