HCO3– plays critically important roles during virtually the entire process of reproduction in mammals, including spermatogenesis, sperm capacitation, fertilization, and development of early stage embryos. Therefore, the acid-base balance in the male and female reproductive tracts must be finely modulated. The fluid milieu in the epididymis is acidic, containing very low concentration of HCO3–. In this acidic low HCO3– environment, mature sperm are rendered quiescent in the epididymis. In contrast, the luminal fluid in the female uterus and oviduct is alkaline, with very high concentration of HCO3– that is essential for sperm to fulfill fertilization. HCO3– transporter of solute carrier 4 (SLC4) and SLC26 families represent the major carriers for HCO3– transport across the plasma membrane. These transporters play critical roles in intracellular pH regulation and transepithelial HCO3– transport. The physiological roles of these transporters in mammalian reproduction are of fundamental interest to investigators. Here we review recent progress in understanding the expression of HCO3– transporters in reproductive tract tissues as well as the physiological roles of these transporters in mammalian reproduction.
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Vol. 86 • No. 4