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Sperm motility and energetics

Cummins, J. (2009) Sperm motility and energetics. In: Birkhead, T.R., Hosken, D.J. and Pitnick, S., (eds.) Sperm Biology. Academic Press, pp. 185-206.

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Although there is much variation in sperm structure among taxa, most sperm types possess four core elements: a paternal haploid nucleus payload of DNA; a source of energy in the mitochondrial and glycolytic metabolic systems; a motor (the flagellum) to drive the sperm from the male to the egg; and a mechanism for binding with and penetrating the egg (the acrosome). This chapter examines the physiological basis for sperm movement and energetics, and examines the motor and the source of sperm energy, as these elements are the most salient to sperm motility. Mitochondria are the principle source of energy for sperm motility, and these have an endosymbiotic evolutionary origin. This energy is used to drive the sperm's flagellum—essentially the motor for motility—and this structure is believed to be a modified cilium. It has been assumed since the 1950s that the velocity of a sperm is a function of wave frequency and amplitude. Maximum sperm velocity is proportional to the wavelength that can be generated. The wavelength in turn depends on the size (and perhaps the stiffness) of the flagellum and on the conditions of measurement. In preparation for fertilization, sperm of eutherian mammals undergo a transition to increased power output, a process known as hyperactivation. The control of capacitation and hyperactivation phenomena revolves around ion channels, in particular calcium in concert with intracellular messengers such as the cyclic nucleotides (cAMP and cGMP) and nitric oxide.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.
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