A K(+)-selective CNG channel orchestrates Ca(2+) signalling in zebrafish sperm. Academic Article uri icon


  • Calcium in the flagellum controls sperm navigation. In sperm of marine invertebrates and mammals, Ca(2+) signalling has been intensely studied, whereas for fish little is known. In sea urchin sperm, a cyclic nucleotide-gated K(+) channel (CNGK) mediates a cGMP-induced hyperpolarization that evokes Ca(2+) influx. Here, we identify in sperm of the freshwater fish Danio rerio a novel CNGK family member featuring non-canonical properties. It is located in the sperm head rather than the flagellum and is controlled by intracellular pH, but not cyclic nucleotides. Alkalization hyperpolarizes sperm and produces Ca(2+) entry. Ca(2+) induces spinning-like swimming, different from swimming of sperm from other species. The "spinning" mode probably guides sperm into the micropyle, a narrow entrance on the surface of fish eggs. A picture is emerging of sperm channel orthologues that employ different activation mechanisms and serve different functions. The channel inventories probably reflect adaptations to species-specific challenges during fertilization.

publication date

  • December 9, 2015

published in