Beta-defensin 126 (DEFB126) coats the entire surface of macaque sperm until sperm become capacitated, and the removal of DEFB126 from over the head of sperm is required for sperm-zona recognition. Viable sperm collected from cervix and the uterine lumen of mated female macaques had DEFB126 coating the entire surface, suggesting that DEFB126 is retained on sperm en route to the oviduct. DEFB126 plays a major role in attachment of sperm to oviductal epithelial cells (OECs). Following treatment to either remove or alter DEFB126, sperm were coincubated with explants of OECs, which were assessed for sperm binding following rinsing to remove superficially attached sperm. Sperm treated with either 1 mM caffeine 1 mM dibutyryl cyclic adenosine monophosphate (dbcAMP) (induces capacitation and complete release of DEFB126 from sperm), 2 mM caffeine (removes DEFB126 from over the head and midpiece but does not induce capacitation), anti-DEFB126 immunoglobulin, or neuraminidase (cleaves sialic acid from terminal positions on glycosylation sites of DEFB126) resulted in similar and significant levels of inhibition of sperm-OEC binding. Preincubation of OECs with soluble DEFB126 also resulted in significantly reduced sperm-OEC binding. Furthermore, reduced OEC binding capability of sperm lacking DEFB126 could be restored by addition of soluble DEFB126 to the sperm surface prior to incubation with OECs. Finally, purified DEFB126, infused into oviducts in situ, associated primarily with the apical membranes of secretory-type epithelial cells. In summary, treatments of macaque sperm that result in either removal, masking, or alteration of DEFB126 result in loss of sperm-OEC binding that is independent of changes in sperm motility. DEFB126 may be directly involved in the formation of a reservoir of sperm in the oviduct of macaques.
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