Cell Biology

Pass the Calcium, Please

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Science  27 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6033, pp. 1013
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6033.1013-b

The prostate gets a lot of bad press as a source of problems for aging men, but now a new study suggests that it plays a key role in preparing sperm for successful fertilization. Prostate cells release prostasomes, vesicles that fuse with sperm cells during ejaculation. Park et al. found that fusion with prostasomes transfers a molecular “tool kit” to sperm that enables the dynamic calcium signaling events in sperm required for optimal motility and subsequent fertilization. In vitro analysis showed that sperm that had fused with prostasomes received components of the calcium signal transduction machinery, including progesterone receptors (which respond to progesterone released by cells surrounding the egg), ryanodine receptors (which are calcium-permeable channels), and an enzyme that produces cyclic adenosine diphosphoribose (which acts to open ryanodine receptor channels). The transfer of these various elements enhanced calcium signaling in the sperm, sperm motility, and fertilization efficiency in vitro. Thus, despite being stripped-down cells with little cytoplasm and few organelles, sperm are able to use a sophisticated calcium signaling mechanisms, thanks to the bits passed to them from the prostate.

Sci. Signal. 4, ra31 (2011).

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