UCSF LogoPregnancy as well as male infertility could have connotations with this finding. USCF scientists have recognized an obscure molecular regulator that appears to regulate the capability of human sperm to reach and fertilize the egg. This discovery may aid in both male infertility as well as averting pregnancy.

The team of biophysicists and molecular biologists apparently created a technique to document electrical activity of a solo human sperm cell by means of a procedure known as patch-clamping. The new finding appears to throw light on various preceding conundrums, counting how sperm cells that are inactive in the male reproductive system may get triggered in the female reproductive area. Also they seem to clarify why marijuana and zinc could influence sperm motility and male fertility.

The molecule is apparently called Hv1 and functions as a pore in the outer membrane of the sperm cell that is said to extrude protons from the cell. That extrusion procedure may augment the pH of the internal cell environment, which enables it to be less acidic. Hv1 had formerly been recognized to be principally there in immune cells known as phagocytes, but had apparently not been seen in other cells, counting spermatozoa. This was mentioned by Yuriy Kirichok, PhD, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Physiology who headed the research.

Kirichok commented, “For the first time ever, we had an opportunity to study the electrical activity of the human sperm cell and measure its ionic conductance. We realized there was a huge proton conductance at work. The activity looked just like Hv1 activity in phagocytes.”

Hv1 also appeared to be a rational alternative since it may be acknowledged to be triggered by an augment in external pH and to be inhibited by extracellular zinc. The maximum concentration of zinc in humans is apparently discovered in the male reproductive area, which may slow down an Hv1 channel and maintain the spermatozoa in their dormant condition. The female reproductive region is believed to be both more alkaline and definitely lower in zinc levels.

By merging the skills and knowledge of biophysics, molecular biology, conventional pharmacology and biochemistry, the team could document the proton current drifting across the sperm plasma membrane. They then performed a chain of experiments to observe whether it reacted to the same external stimuli as Hv1: activation by membrane voltage, an increase in external pH and fatty acids, and inhibition by extracellular zinc.

When the findings of those experiments imitated Hv1, the UCSF team supposedly applied a fluorescent antibody that is identified to attach particularly with Hv1. They also conducted an examination for the Hv1 messenger RNA that seems to function as a template for the gene that generates Hv1 to corroborate attendance of Hv1 in human sperm cells. Every generated affirmative outcome apparently divulged an exceedingly elevated concentration of Hv1 in the flagellum of the human sperm cell.

Researchers have identified for decades that sperm cells ought to turn less acidic or more alkaline internally so as to be triggered in the female reproductive territory and to have the capability to fertilize the egg. But so far, they have not comprehended what caused the internal pH in sperm to rise, or alkalinize, owing to an incapability to gauge proton currents across the human sperm membrane.

Kirichok mentioned, “The concentration of protons is extremely high at all times while the sperm are in the male reproductive tract, which makes the intracellular sperm environment acidic and inhibits the activity of the sperm cell. The way to activate the sperm cell is to enable the protons to leave the cell. Hv1 is what enables them to do that.”

Kirichok clarified that apparently human spermatozoa are entirely immobile in the male reproductive system, which is an acidic setting, and that an as-yet-unidentified proton pump supposedly keeps the proton levels even elevated within the cell. This is said to have facilitated the internal environment, with a pH of 6.0, up to 100 times to be more acidic as compared to the female reproductive tract, where pH can arrive at 8.0.

Kirichok mentioned, “We know the Hv1 channel, when opened, can allow protons to exit, and activates a cascade of biochemical reactions that cause the spermatozoa to move, mature and prepare to fertilize the egg. In order to activate sperm cells, this ion channel must be activated.”

Hv1 is also triggered by endocannabinoid anandamide, a matter discharged by neurons and also the egg membrane. Kirichok mentioned that this may clarify the puzzling outcomes that have been discovered in exposing sperm to cannabinoids, like those encompassed in marijuana.

Marijuana use has supposedly been linked for quite some time with male infertility, but a few researchers seem to have illustrated augmented sperm activity in this exposure. Kirichok suggested that marijuana could imitate the endocannabinoid anandamide that is discharged by an egg cell, thereby triggering the Hv1 proton channel and causing the sperms to mobilize and burn out impulsively, while being immobile in the male reproductive tract.

The findings are published in the Journal Cell.