The development of a new male contraceptive requires a transition from animal model to human and an understanding of the mechanisms involved in the target's inhibition of human spermatozoan fertility. We now report that semenogelin (SEMG1) and anti-EPPIN antibodies to a defined target site of 21 amino acids on the C terminal of EPPIN cause the loss of intracellular calcium, as measured by Fluo-4. The loss of intracellular calcium explains our previous observations of an initial loss of progressive motility and eventually the complete loss of motility when spermatozoa are treated with SEMG1 or anti-EPPIN antibodies. Thimerosal can rescue the effects of SEMG1 on motility, implying that internal stores of calcium are not depleted. Additionally, SEMG1 treatment of spermatozoa decreases the intracellular pH, and motility can be rescued by ammonium chloride. The results of this study demonstrate that EPPIN controls sperm motility in the ejaculate by binding SEMG1, resulting in the loss of calcium, most likely through a disturbance of internal pH and an inhibition of uptake mechanisms. However, the exact steps through which the EPPIN-SEMG1 complex exerts its effect on internal calcium levels are unknown. Anti-EPPIN antibodies can substitute for SEMG1, and, therefore, small-molecular weight compounds that mimic anti-EPPIN binding should be able to substitute for SEMG1, providing the basis for a nonantibody, nonhormonal male contraceptive.
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Vol. 86 • No. 2