Despite considerable advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating eutherian sperm function, there is a paucity of such knowledge for the Metatheria. In eutherian spermatozoa, the attainment of functional competence is associated with a redox-regulated, cAMP-mediated tyrosine phosphorylation cascade, activated during capacitation. In this report we investigate whether tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) spermatozoa possess a similar signal transduction pathway. Western blot analysis of phosphotyrosine expression in caudal and ejaculated populations of tammar spermatozoa revealed that elevation of intracellular cAMP levels, but not exposure to oxidants or NADPH, induced a dramatic increase in the overall level of tyrosine phosphorylation. Washed, ejaculated spermatozoa exhibited more pronounced increases in tyrosine phosphorylation than unwashed sperm populations. Localisation of tyrosine phosphorylation by immunocytochemistry showed that phosphotyrosine residues were principally located along the tammar sperm flagellum, and occasionally at a small region of the sperm head, adjacent to the acrosome. Associated with the tyrosine phosphorylation of tammar spermatozoa, was a change in sperm head conformation to a T-shaped orientation, further implying the importance of these pathways to normal tammar sperm function. Redox activity, as detected by lucigenin-dependent chemiluminescence, was stimulated by NADPH in caudal sperm preparations but not ejaculated spermatozoa. However, neither sperm population responded to treatment with NADPH with changes in intracellular cAMP or tyrosine phosphorylation. In conclusion, tammar spermatozoa possess the same cAMP-mediated, tyrosine phosphorylation-dependent signal transduction cascade that has been associated with capacitation in eutherian spermatozoa. However in Metatherian spermatozoa we could find no evidence that this pathway was redox regulated.
Journal of Experimental Zoology Vol. 301A, Issue 2, p. 118-130