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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 Nov 30;11848:. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2109993118.
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Molecular mechanisms of sperm motility are conserved in an early-branching metazoan.

Speer KF , Allen-Waller L , Novikov DR , Barott KL .

Efficient and targeted sperm motility is essential for animal reproductive success. Sperm from mammals and echinoderms utilize a highly conserved signaling mechanism in which sperm motility is stimulated by pH-dependent activation of the cAMP-producing enzyme soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC). However, the presence of this pathway in early-branching metazoans has remained unexplored. Here, we found that elevating cytoplasmic pH induced a rapid burst of cAMP signaling and triggered the onset of motility in sperm from the reef-building coral Montipora capitata in a sAC-dependent manner. Expression of sAC in the mitochondrial-rich midpiece and flagellum of coral sperm support a dual role for this molecular pH sensor in regulating mitochondrial respiration and flagellar beating and thus motility. In addition, we found that additional members of the homologous signaling pathway described in echinoderms, both upstream and downstream of sAC, are expressed in coral sperm. These include the Na+/H+ exchanger SLC9C1, protein kinase A, and the CatSper Ca2+ channel conserved even in mammalian sperm. Indeed, the onset of motility corresponded with increased protein kinase A activity. Our discovery of this pathway in an early-branching metazoan species highlights the ancient origin of the pH-sAC-cAMP signaling node in sperm physiology and suggests that it may be present in many other marine invertebrate taxa for which sperm motility mechanisms remain unexplored. These results emphasize the need to better understand the role of pH-dependent signaling in the reproductive success of marine animals, particularly as climate change stressors continue to alter the physiology of corals and other marine invertebrates.

PubMed ID: 34810263
PMC ID: PMC8640785
Article link: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
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