Data are accumulating to demonstrate that pH regulation in the male reproductive tract has a vital role in modulating sperm cell fertilizing capacity, and therefore male fertility. Bicarbonate uptake by sperm cells is required for the achievement of motility levels required for fertilization. Vas deferens epithelial cells can carry out measurable bicarbonate secretion, but the available literature to date reports that the vas deferens luminal content is typically acidic. This study aimed to determine pH in the boar vas deferens lumen and whether modulatory mechanisms exist for regulation of pH in this compartment of the male reproductive tract. A fiberoptic pH probe was used to assess pH in the vas deferens of anesthetized adult boars. The mean pH, derived from multiple measurements at variable positions along the vas deferens lumen, was 7.39 ± 0.09. Furthermore, administration of xylazine, an alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonist rapidly (<10 min) alkalinized the vas deferens lumen in most cases. Because the duct was transected proximal to the site of measurements, the observations rule out the possibility that alkalinization resulted from secretion in more proximal portions of the duct. These results indicate that the boar vas deferens lumen can be alkaline, and they suggest that porcine vas deferens epithelia increase net bicarbonate secretion in vivo after systemic alpha-2 adrenergic stimulation. This secretory response greatly changes the luminal environment to which sperm cells are exposed, which will initiate or enhance motility, and is expected to modulate male fertility.
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Vol. 82 • No. 1