Sperm capacitation is required for fertilization and involves several ion permeability changes. Although Cl− and HCO3− are essential for capacitation, the molecular entities responsible for their transport are not fully known. During mouse sperm capacitation, the intracellular concentration of Cl− ([Cl−]i) increases and membrane potential (Em) hyperpolarizes. As in noncapacitated sperm, the Cl− equilibrium potential appears to be close to the cell resting Em, opening of Cl− channels could not support the [Cl−]i increase observed during capacitation. Alternatively, the [Cl−]i increase might be mediated by anion exchangers. Among them, SLC26A3 and SLC26A6 are good candidates, since, in several cell types, they increase [Cl−]i and interact with cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), a Cl− channel present in mouse and human sperm. This interaction is known to be mediated and probably regulated by the Na /H regulatory factor-1 (official symbol, SLC9A3R1). Our RT-PCR, immunocytochemistry, Western blot, and immunoprecipitation data indicate that SLC26A3, SLC26A6, and SLC9A3R1 are expressed in mouse sperm, localize to the midpiece, and interact between each other and with CFTR. Moreover, we present evidence indicating that CFTR and SLC26A3 are involved in the [Cl−]i increase induced by db-cAMP in noncapacitated sperm. Furthermore, we found that inhibitors of SLC26A3 (Tenidap and 5099) interfere with the Em changes that accompany capacitation. Together, these findings indicate that a CFTR/SLC26A3 functional interaction is important for mouse sperm capacitation.
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Vol. 86 • No. 1