Quiescent sperm survive in cauda epididymis for long periods of time under extreme crowding conditions and with a very limited energy substrate, while after ejaculation, motile sperm live for a much shorter period with an unlimited energy resource and without crowding. Thus, the energy metabolism in relation to the energy requirement of the two may be quite different. A simple physiological technique was evolved to collect viable quiescent sperm from rat cauda epididymis to compare its energy metabolism with motile sperm. Quiescent sperm exhibited 40%–60% higher activities of mitochondrial electron transport chain complexes I–IV and ATP synthase in comparison to motile sperm and accumulated Ca2 in the midpiece mitochondria to enhance oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos). In contrast, motile sperm displayed up to 75% higher activities of key glycolytic enzymes and secreted more than two times the lactate than quiescent sperm. Quiescent sperm phosphorylated AMPK and MAPK-p38, while motile sperm phosphorylated AKT and MAPK/ERK. Glycolytic inhibitor iodoacetamide prevented motility activation of quiescent rat sperm and inhibited conception in rabbits more effectively than OxPhos uncoupler 2,4-dinitrophenol. Apparently, quiescent sperm employ the most energy efficient OxPhos to survive for extended periods of time under extreme conditions of nutrition and crowding. However, on motility initiation, sperm switch predominantly to glycolysis to cater to their high- and quick-energy requirement of much shorter periods. This study also presents a proof of concept for targeting sperm energy metabolism for contraception.
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Vol. 94 • No. 4