Biophysical journal

What is the core oscillator in the speract-activated pathway of the Strongylocentrotus purpuratus sperm flagellum?

PMID 22713563


Sperm chemotaxis has an important role in fertilization. Most of our knowledge regarding this phenomenon comes from studies in organisms whose fertilization occurs externally, like sea urchins. Sea urchin spermatozoa respond to sperm-activating peptides, which diffuse from the egg jelly coat and interact with their receptor in the flagellum, triggering several physiological responses: changes in membrane potential, intracellular pH, cyclic nucleotide levels, and intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]). In particular, flagellar [Ca2+] has been shown to oscillate. These [Ca2+] oscillations are correlated with changes in the flagellar shape and so with the regulation of the sperm swimming paths. In this study, we demonstrate, from a mathematical modeling perspective, that the reported speract-activated signaling pathway in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (speract being a sperm-activating peptide specific to this species) has the necessary elements to replicate the reported [Ca2+] oscillations. We further investigate which elements of this signaling pathway constitute the core oscillator.