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Journal of cellular physiology

A role for the chemokine receptor CCR6 in mammalian sperm motility and chemotaxis.


PMID 23765988

Abstract

Although recent evidence indicates that several chemokines and defensins, well-known as inflammatory mediators, are expressed in the male and female reproductive tracts, the location and functional significance of chemokine networks in sperm physiology and sperm reproductive tract interactions are poorly understood. To address this deficiency in our knowledge, we examined the expression and function in sperm of CCR6, a receptor common to several chemoattractant peptides, and screened several reproductive tract fluids for the presence of specific ligands. CCR6 protein is present in mouse and human sperm and mainly localized in the sperm tail with other minor patterns in sperm from mice (neck and acrosomal region) and men (neck and midpiece regions). As expected from the protein immunoblotting and immunofluorescence results, mouse Ccr6 mRNA is expressed in the testis. Furthermore, the Defb29 mRNA encoding the CCR6 ligand, β-defensin DEFB29, is expressed at high levels in the epididymis. As determined by protein chip analysis, several chemokines (including some that act through CCR6, such as CCL20/MIP-3α (formerly macrophage inflammatory protein 3α) and protein hormones were present in human follicular fluid, endometrial secretions, and seminal plasma. In functional chemotaxis assays, capacitated human sperm exhibited a directional movement towards CCL20, and displayed modifications in motility parameters. Our data indicate that chemokine ligand/receptor interactions in the male and female genital tracts promote sperm motility and chemotaxis under non-inflammatory conditions. Therefore, some of the physiological reactions mediated by CCR6 ligands in male reproduction extend beyond a pro-inflammatory response and might find application in clinical reproduction and/or contraception.

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