Sperm chemotaxis

Rev Reprod. 1999 Jan;4(1):56-66. doi: 10.1530/ror.0.0040056.


Communication between spermatozoa and egg before contact by chemotaxis appears to be prevalent throughout the animal kingdom. In non-mammalian species, sperm chemotaxis to factors secreted from the egg is well documented. In mammals, sperm chemotaxis to follicular factors in vitro has been established in humans and mice. The attractants of female origin in non-mammalian species are heat-stable peptides or proteins of various sizes, or other small molecules, depending on the species. Species specificity of the attractants in non-mammalian species may vary from high species specificity, through specificity to families with no specificity within a family, to absence of specificity. The mammalian sperm attractants have not been identified but they appear to be heat-stable peptides. The claim that progesterone is the attractant for human spermatozoa has failed to be substantiated, neither have claims for other mammalian sperm attractants been verified. The molecular mechanism of sperm chemotaxis is not known. Models involving modulation of the intracellular Ca2+ concentration have been proposed for both mammalian and non-mammalian sperm chemotaxis. The physiological role of sperm chemotaxis in non-mammalian species appears to differ from that in mammals. In non-mammalian species, sperm chemotaxis strives to bring as many spermatozoa as possible to the egg. However, in mammals, the role appears to be recruitment of a selective population of capacitated ('ripe') spermatozoa to fertilize the egg.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticoagulants / metabolism
  • Antithrombin III / physiology
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor / physiology
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follicular Fluid / physiology
  • Heparin / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Progesterone / physiology
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / physiology
  • Sperm Capacitation / physiology
  • Sperm-Ovum Interactions*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Progesterone
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor
  • Antithrombin III
  • Heparin
  • Calcium