Most animal sperm are quiescent in the male reproductive tract and become activated after mixing with accessory secretions from the male and/or female reproductive tract. Sperm from the mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus initiate flagellar motility after mixing with male accessory gland components, and the sperm flagellum displays three distinct motility patterns over time: a low amplitude, a long wavelength form (Wave A), a double waveform consisting of two superimposed waveforms over the length of the flagellum (Wave B), and finally, a single helical waveform that propels the sperm at high velocity (Wave C). This flagellar behavior is replicated by treating quiescent sperm with trypsin. When exposed to either broad spectrum or tyrosine kinase inhibitors, sperm activated by accessory gland secretions exhibited motility through Wave B but were unable to progress to Wave C. The MEK1/2 inhibitor UO126 and the ERK1/2 inhibitor FR180204 each blocked the transition from Wave B to Wave C, indicating a role for MAPK activity in the control of waveform and, accordingly, progressive movement. Furthermore, a MAPK substrate antibody stained the flagellum of activated sperm. In the absence of extracellular Ca2 , a small fraction of sperm swam backwards, whereas most could not be activated by either accessory glands or trypsin and were immotile. However, the phosphatase inhibitor okadaic acid in the absence of extracellular Ca2 induced all sperm to swim backwards with a flagellar waveform similar to Wave A. These results indicate that flagellar waveform generation and direction of motility are controlled by protein phosphorylation and Ca2 levels, respectively.
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Vol. 89 • No. 6