The mechanisms of sperm adhesion and release within the mammalian oviduct are still poorly understood. In this in vitro study, a previously developed adhesion assay was used to analyze the effects of heparin, N-desulfated heparin, fucoidan, dextran sulfate, and dextran on bovine sperm-oviductal cell adhesion and release. Results showed that 1) all sulfated glycoconjugates were powerful inhibitors of sperm binding to oviductal monolayers in a dose-dependent manner, whereas N-desulfated heparin and dextran had no effect; 2) sperm pretreatment with heparin and fucoidan markedly inhibited adhesion; 3) treatment of oviductal monolayers with heparinase I, II, or sodium chlorate (an inhibitor of sulfation) had no effect on sperm adhesion; 4) sulfated glycoconjugates were also powerful and quick inducers of sperm release from oviductal monolayers; and 5) addition of sulfated glycoconjugates to the cocultures caused a sudden increase of bound-sperm flagellar beat frequencies, followed by a release of highly motile sperm. In conclusion, these data support the hypothesis that sulfated glycoconjugates may act as signals that induce sperm release and migration from the oviductal reservoir.
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