During transit through the female reproductive tract, mammalian spermatozoa are exposed to increasing concentrations of progesterone (P4) released by the cumulus oophorus. P4 triggers massive calcium influx into human sperm through activation of the sperm-specific calcium channel CatSper. These properties of human spermatozoa are thought to be unique since CatSper is not progesterone sensitive in rodent sperm. Here, by performing patch clamp recording from spermatozoa from rhesus macaque for the first time, we report that they express P4-sensitive CatSper channel identically to human sperm and react to P4 by inducing responsiveness to zona pellucida, unlike human sperm, which respond directly to P4. We have also determined the physiologic levels of P4 capable of inducing capacitation-associated changes in macaque sperm. Progesterone (1 μM) induced up to a 3-fold increase in the percentage of sperm undergoing the zona pellucida-induced acrosome reaction with the lowest threshold as low as 10 nM of P4. Submicromolar levels of P4 induced a dose-dependent increase in curvilinear velocity and lateral head displacement, while sperm protein tyrosine phosphorylation was not altered. Macaque spermatozoa exposed to 10 μM of P4 developed fully hyperactivated motility. Similar to human sperm, on approaching cumulus mass and binding to zona pellucida, macaque spermatozoa display hyperactivation and undergo an acrosome reaction that coincides with the rise in the sperm intracellular calcium. Taken together, these data indicate that P4 accelerates the completion of capacitation and provides evidence of spermatozoa “priming” as they move into a gradient of progesterone in search for the oocyte.
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Vol. 93 • No. 6