Mammalian spermatozoa must undergo capacitation before acquiring the ability to fertilize the oocyte. This process is believed to be initiated following the release of surface-associated decapacitation factors that are elaborated by both the epididymis and the male accessory organs. Herein, we report the identification of a number of proteins that are actively released from the surface of mouse spermatozoa during capacitation in vitro. As anticipated, the addition of these factors back to suspensions of mouse spermatozoa was shown to suppress several correlates of the capacitation process. Specifically, they induced a significant, dose-dependent inhibition of the ability of spermatozoa to undergo a progesterone-induced acrosome reaction and to bind to the zona pellucida in vitro. Inhibition of these functions was associated with the suppression of tyrosine phosphorylation in the sperm plasma membrane but had no effect on the phosphorylation of internal proteins in either the sperm head or tail. This inhibitory activity was attributed to a subset of the isolated proteins compromising at least four putative decapacitation factors. These proteins were identified via tandem-mass spectrometry amino acid sequence analysis as plasma membrane fatty acid binding protein, cysteine-rich secretory protein 1 (CRISP1), phosphatidylethanolamine binding protein 1 (PBP), and an unnamed protein product that we have termed decapacitation factor 10 (DF10). Of these proteins, PBP was identified as a primary candidate for a decapacitation factor.
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