Precontact communication between gametes is established by chemotaxis. Sperm chemotaxis toward factor(s) in follicular fluid (FF) has been demonstrated in humans and mice. In humans, the chemotactic responsiveness is restricted to capacitated spermatozoa. Here, we investigated whether sperm chemotaxis to factor(s) present in FF also occurs in rabbits and, if so, whether only capacitated spermatozoa are chemotactically responsive. Chemotaxis assays were performed by videomicroscopy in a Zigmond chamber. We measured chemotactic responsiveness as a function of FF dilution by means of a novel directionality-based method that considers the ratio between the distances traveled by the spermatozoa both parallel to the chemoattractant gradient and perpendicular to it. A peak of maximal response was observed at 10−4 dilution of FF, resulting in a typical chemotactic concentration-dependent curve in which 23% of the spermatozoa were chemotactically responsive. In contrast, the percentage of cells exhibiting FF-dependent enhanced speed of swimming increased with the FF concentration, whereas the percentage of cells maintaining linear motility decreased with the FF concentration. The percentages of chemotactically responsive cells were very similar to those of capacitated spermatozoa. Depletion of the latter by stimulation of the acrosome reaction resulted in a total loss of the chemotactic response, whereas the reappearance of capacitated cells resulted in a recovery of chemotactic responsiveness. We conclude that rabbit spermatozoa, like human spermatozoa, are chemotactically responsive to FF factor(s) and acquire this responsiveness as part of the capacitation process.
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