Sperm from the toad Bufo arenarum must penetrate the egg jelly before reaching the vitelline envelope (VE), where the acrosome reaction is triggered. When the jelly coat is removed, sperm still bind to the VE, but acrosomal exocytosis is not promoted. Our previous work demonstrated that diffusible substances of the jelly coat, termed “egg water” (EW), triggered capacitation-like changes in B. arenarum sperm, promoting the acquisition of a transient fertilizing capacity. In the present work, we correlated this fertilizing capacity with the ability of the sperm to undergo the acrosome reaction, further substantiating the role of the jelly coat in fertilization. When sperm were exposed to the VE, only those preincubated in EW for 5 or 8 min underwent an increase in the intracellular Ca2 concentration ([Ca2 ]i), which led to acrosomal exocytosis. Responsiveness to the VE was not acquired on preincubation in EW for 2 or 15 min or in Ringer solution regardless of the preincubation time. In contrast, depletion of intracellular Ca2 stores (induced by thapsigargin) promoted [Ca2 ]i rise and the acrosome reaction even in sperm that were not exposed to EW. Acrosomal exocytosis was blocked by the presence of Ca2 chelators independent of whether a physiological or pharmacological stimulus was used. However, Ni2 and mibefradil prevented [Ca2 ]i rise and the acrosome reaction of sperm exposed to the VE but not of sperm exposed to thapsigargin. These data suggest that the acrosomal responsiveness of B. arenarum sperm, present during a narrow period, is acquired during EW incubation and involves the modulation of a voltage-dependent Ca2 channel.
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Vol. 80 • No. 2