Laser light scatter analyzed by flow cytometry was used to monitor the volume of viable maturing murine spermatozoa. Upon release, dispersion, and dilution, epididymal sperm from fertile heterozygous c-ros knockout mice were smallest in the cauda region and largest in the corpus region. Cauda sperm from both infertile homozygous c-ros knockout and GPX5-Tag2 transgenic mice were abnormally large. When incubated, corpus and cauda sperm from normal mice became slightly enlarged and later returned to a smaller size. This suggests an immediate swelling due to high intracellular osmolality, which triggers a regulatory volume decrease (RVD) that results in a net volume reduction. Normal caput sperm increased in size continuously and became larger than the more mature sperm, indicating a lack of RVD. The ion-channel blocker quinine induced dose-dependent size increases in normal cauda sperm but not in caput sperm. Dose-dependent quinine action on mature sperm also included induction of tail angulation, and suppression of straight-line velocity and linearity. The kinematic effects were more sensitive, with a quicker onset, but they diminished with time in contrast to tail angulation, which intensified. These results suggest that kinematic changes are an early phenomenon of swelling, which gradually accumulates at the cytoplasmic droplet to cause flagellar angulation. Disruption of the epididymal maturation of sperm volume regulation capacity would hinder the transport of sperm in the female tract, and may thereby explain infertility under certain conditions, but may also provide a novel approach to male contraception.
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