Identification of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and p38 MAPK as regulators of human sperm motility and acrosome reaction and as predictors of poor spermatozoan quality

Tal Almog, Shlomi Lazar, Nachum Reiss, Nir Etkovitz, Eyal Milch, Nir Rahamim, Masha Dobkin-Bekman, Ronit Rotem, Moshe Kalina, Jacob Ramon, Arieh Raziel, Haim Brietbart, Rony Seger, Zvi Naor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mature spermatozoa acquire progressive motility only after ejaculation. Their journey in the female reproductive tract also includes suppression of progressive motility, reactivation, capacitation, and hyperactivation of motility (whiplash), the mechanisms of which are obscure. MAPKs are key regulatory enzymes in cell signaling, participating in diverse cellular functions such as growth, differentiation, stress, and apoptosis. Here we report that ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK are primarily localized to the tail of mature human spermatozoa. Surprisingly, c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1/2, which is thought to be ubiquitously expressed, could not be detected in mature human spermatozoa. ERK1/2 stimulation is downstream to protein kinase C (PKC) activation, which is also present in the human sperm tail (PKCβI and PKCε). ERK1/2 stimulates and p38 inhibits forward and hyperactivated motility, respectively. Both ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK are involved in the acrosome reaction. Using a proteomic approach, we identified ARHGAP6, a RhoGAP, as an ERK substrate in PMA-stimulated human spermatozoa. Inverse correlation was obtained between the relative expression level of ERK1 or the relative activation level of p38 and sperm motility, forward progression motility, sperm morphology, and viability. Therefore, increased expression of ERK1 and activated p38 can predict poor human sperm quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14479-14489
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume283
Issue number21
DOIs
StatePublished - 23 May 2008

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