Progesterone (P) appears to stimulate sperm capacitation and/or induce the acrosome reaction (AR) in some species. In bovine, it is now well established that the BSP-A1/-A2 proteins (the major proteins of bovine seminal plasma) promote sperm capacitation. In this study, we investigated the effect of P on bovine sperm cholesterol efflux, capacitation, and the AR. Labeled bovine epididymal sperm were incubated (0–6 h) with different concentrations of P (0.01–10 μg/ml) in the presence or absence of BSP-A1/-A2 proteins (capacitating conditions). At different time intervals, aliquots of sperm were taken to determine the sperm cholesterol efflux, sperm capacitation (AR induced by lysophosphatidylcholine, lyso-PC), and sperm AR. The results show that the presence of P in the media did not affect the membrane cholesterol efflux potential of the BSP-A1/-A2 proteins. P alone did not stimulate the AR with or without lyso-PC unless the epididymal sperm were incubated in capacitating conditions (in the presence of BSP-A1/-A2). When washed ejaculated sperm were continuously incubated with P, the P did not stimulate AR. However, when ejaculated sperm were preincubated (6 h) with heparin (capacitation medium) and then incubated 15 min with P (2 μg/ml), the percentage of AR obtained was similar to that obtained with lyso-PC. The effect of P on sperm AR was concentration dependent with a maximum 2.2-fold increase at 2 μg/ml of P. These results demonstrate a potential role of P in bovine sperm AR but not in capacitation.
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