The sperm acrosome reaction and penetration of the egg follow zona pellucida binding only if the sperm has previously undergone the poorly understood maturation process known as capacitation. We demonstrate here that in vitro capacitation of bull, ram, mouse, and human sperm was accompanied by a time-dependent increase in actin polymerization. Induction of the acrosome reaction in capacitated cells initiated fast F-actin breakdown. Incubation of sperm in media lacking BSA or methyl-β-cyclodextrin, Ca2 , or NaHCO3, components that are all required for capacitation, prevented actin polymerization as well as capacitation, as assessed by the ability of the cells to undergo the acrosome reaction. Inhibition of F-actin formation by cytochalasin D blocked sperm capacitation and reduced the in vitro fertilization rate of metaphase II-arrested mouse eggs. It has been suggested that protein tyrosine phosphorylation may represent an important regulatory pathway that is associated with sperm capacitation. We show here that factors known to stimulate sperm protein tyrosine phosphorylation (i.e., NaHCO3, cAMP, epidermal growth factor, H2O2, and sodium vanadate) were able to enhance actin polymerization, whereas inhibition of tyrosine kinases prevented F-actin formation. These data suggest that actin polymerization may represent an important regulatory pathway in with sperm capacitation, whereas F-actin breakdown occurs before the acrosome reaction.
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