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The effects of putative K+ channel blockers on volume regulation of murine spermatozoa.

J P Barfield, C H Yeung, T G Cooper

Biol. Reprod., 2005 May , 72, 1275-81

Volume regulation is a necessary task for spermatozoa as the osmolarity of female tract fluids is lower than that in the epididymis and because the disruption of it in transgenic mice results in infertility. As the specific mechanisms behind this phenomenon are unknown, spermatozoa from mice were screened for sensitivities to inhibitors known to affect specific channels involved in volume regulation of somatic cells. Spermatozoa from the cauda epididymidis were exposed to physiological hypotonic conditions with and without inhibitor. Flow cytometric forward scatter measurements were taken to indicate relative sperm size at 5 and 75 min of incubation. The presence of quinine (0.8 mM), cadmium (0.2 mM), flecainide (100 microM), 4-aminopyridine (4 mM), barium (1 mM), clofilium (10 microM), and phrixotoxin (100 nM) for 75 min resulted in significantly higher forward scatter values than sperm incubated in medium without an inhibitor. These results imply that channels potentially involved in volume regulation of murine spermatozoa include the voltage-dependent Kv1.4 (also known as KCNA1), Kv1.5 (KCNA5), Kv4.1 (KCND1), Kv4.2 (KCND2), Kv4.3 (KCND3), mink (KCNE1), and acid-sensitive TASK2 (KCNK5) and TASK3 (KCNK9). Western blots confirmed the presence of Kv1.5 and TASK2 proteins in sperm plasma membranes at similar (Kv1.5) or higher (TASK2) molecular weight than in somatic cells. Incubation in a different pH did not reveal acid sensitivity of volume regulation. Volume regulation of spermatozoa may involve novel voltage-gated and pH-sensitive potassium channels, which could be valuable targets for the development of a posttesticular male contraceptive.