We have shown previously that male germ cell-specific sulfoglycolipid, sulfogalactosylglycerolipid (SGG), is involved in sperm-zona pellucida binding, and that SGG and its desulfating enzyme, arylsulfatase A (AS-A), coexist in the same sperm head area. However, AS-A exists at a markedly low level in sperm as compared to SGG (i.e., 1/400 of SGG molar concentration). In the present study, we investigated whether perturbation of this molar ratio would interfere with sperm-egg interaction. We demonstrated that purified AS-A bound to the mouse sperm surface through its high affinity with SGG. When capacitated, Percoll gradient-centrifuged mouse sperm were treated for 1 h with various concentrations of AS-A, their binding to zona-intact eggs was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner and reached the background level with 63 nM AS-A. This inhibition could be partially explained by an increase in premature acrosome reaction. The acrosome-reacted sperm population of the 63 nM AS-A-treated sperm sample was twice that of the control sample (treated with 63 nM ovalbumin) at 1 h (i.e., 32% vs. 15%) and rose to 53% at 2 h. This induction was presumably due to SGG aggregation attributed to AS-A, existing as a dimer at neutral pH, and could be mimicked by anti-SGG immunoglobulin (Ig) G/IgM secondary IgG antibody. Drastic inhibition (75%) of in vivo fertilization was also observed in females inseminated with sperm suspension containing 630 nM AS-A as compared to the rate in females inseminated with sperm suspension included with 630 nM ovalbumin. Our results demonstrate a promising potential for AS-A as a nonhormonal, vaginal contraceptive.
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