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Biology Articles » Biochemistry » Solving The Mystery Of What Puts Sperm 'In The Mood'
In a potential advance toward a male contraceptive pill and new
treatments for infertility, researchers are reporting the
identification of key biochemical changes that put sperm "in the mood"
Mark Platt and colleagues note in the new study that sperm cannot
fertilize an egg immediately after entering the female reproductive
tract. Sperm must acquire this ability after undergoing an activation
process called "capacitation." Scientists have known for years that
this process involves phosphorylation. That common biological
modification causes cellular activities to be turned "on" by the
addition of phosphate molecules to certain amino acids within proteins.
However, the specific biochemical details have been a deep mystery.
Using laboratory mice, the researchers compared the extent of
phosphorylation in both capacitated and noncapacitated sperm samples.
They identified 44 peptides exhibiting differential phosphorylation, on
59 specific amino acids, suggesting that modification of these
particular sites is essential for the capacitation process. The
relative ratio of phosphorylation between the capacitated and
noncapacitated samples were also reported, providing the first
biochemical description of what puts sperm "in the mood."
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