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Research article2004Peer reviewedOpen access

Capacitation of mammalian spermatozoa in vivo, with a specific focus on events in the fallopian tubes

Hunter RHF, Rodriguez-Martinez H


This essay argues strongly that for those sperm cells involved in fertilisation, the process of capacitation represents an active and specific coordination within succeeding regions of the female tract and one whose completion is synchronised with the events of ovulation. Observations on the time-course of capacitation when spermatozoa are first exposed to the uterus and then progress to the Fallopian tubes indicate a synergistic influence of these adjoining portions of the female tract on the rate of capacitation. Three concepts on the control of capacitation are introduced to emphasise the importance of integration in vivo, namely that (1) completion of capacitation is a peri-ovulatory event, (2) suppression of completion of capacitation is an essential storage strategy during a long pre-ovulatory interval, and (3) the process of capacitation comes under the influence of local and systemic ovarian control mechanisms, especially the secretion of progesterone from Graafian follicles soon to ovulate. The last would act to coordinate the final maturation and meeting of male and female gametes. Despite the preceding points, the requirement for such integrated in vivo programming of sperm cell maturation can clearly be overridden in systems of culture. The most reasonable interpretation here would be that a microdrop of culture medium containing eggs, follicular cells and components of follicular fluid would to a considerable extent represent a post-ovulatory environment. Within such a preparation, there would be leaching of the sperm surface among the relatively vast and heterogeneous population of cells, and a proportion of spermatozoa could then respond to 'post-ovulatory signals', not least to molecular influences of the zona pellucida and vitelline products for completion of capacitation. Nonetheless, a physiologically meaningful interpretation of capacitation calls for a stepwise analysis of the dynamic interactions between sperm cell and female tract at successive stages between the uterus and ampullary-isthmic junction. (C) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc

Published in

Molecular Reproduction and Development
2004, Volume: 67, number: 2, pages: 243-250
Publisher: WILEY-LISS

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science
    Veterinary Science

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