Fundamental protein discovered relating to sperm mobility

An important discovery was made by a group of researchers at the University of Osaka regarding a sperm defect, a discovery that could prove important for couples trying to conceive. The research, published in PNAS, shows the existence of a particular protein that is necessary for sperm not to swim unnecessarily in the circle.

The discovery, defined as an “exciting breakthrough” in the press release presenting the research, concerns precisely the way sperm “swims” when it has to head for the fallopian tube. The sperm, driven by long tails called scourges, have greater motility when they approach their destination triggered by an influx of the only calcium in the same scourge. For this process a protein, expressed by the same sperm, sensitive to the electrical signal called VSP is required.

Researchers have precisely determined the physiological role of this protein by performing experiments on mice. They first noted that sperm from mice deficient in VSP had a reduced ability to fertilize eggs in vitro because it started swimming in a circle. This produced a lower number of sperm that reached its destination.

The results they obtained show that the VSP protein seems to play a fundamental role in the regulation of the sperm ion channel and therefore its motility.

“We anticipate that our results will lead to the development of fertility treatments that increase sperm motility, increasing the chances of fertilization,” says Yasushi Okamura, senior author of the study.