Human sperm chemotaxis: is progesterone a chemoattractant?

Biol Reprod. 1999 Jun;60(6):1314-9. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod60.6.1314.


Follicular fluid (FF) induces sperm chemotaxis in human spermatozoa. Progesterone also causes sperm accumulation. However, sperm accumulation can be caused by chemotaxis, chemokinesis, and trapping of various kinds. It has been suggested that progesterone also induces chemotaxis in human spermatozoa. In view of the physiological significance of sperm chemotaxis in human fertilization and its potential clinical implications, it is important to determine unequivocally whether chemotaxis is induced by progesterone and, if so, whether progesterone in FF is the chemoattractant. To resolve these questions we looked for characteristic changes in the direction of sperm swimming toward pure progesterone as well as toward FF before and after progesterone removal. Progesterone caused sperm accumulation and hyperactivation-like motility, but it caused very few changes in the direction of sperm swimming that are characteristic of chemotaxis. Removal of progesterone (and other steroids) from FF by charcoal treatment abolished the sperm hyperactivation-like motility but not sperm chemotaxis. These results suggest that while progesterone might be a weak chemoattractant, it is not the major chemoattractant in FF. Progesterone probably causes human sperm accumulation mainly by inducing hyperactivation-like motility and, as a consequence, sperm trapping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chemotaxis*
  • Female
  • Follicular Fluid / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Progesterone / pharmacology*
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*


  • Progesterone