Immotile sperm and infertility in mice lacking mitochondrial voltage-dependent anion channel type 3

J Biol Chem. 2001 Oct 19;276(42):39206-12. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M104724200. Epub 2001 Aug 15.


Voltage-dependent anion channels (VDACs), also known as mitochondrial porins, are small channel proteins involved in the translocation of metabolites across the mitochondrial outer membrane. A single channel-forming protein is found in yeast, whereas higher eukaryotes express multiple VDACs, with humans and mice each harboring three distinct channels (VDAC1-3) encoded by separate genes. To begin to assess the functions of each of the three isoforms, the VDAC3 gene was inactivated by targeted disruption in embryonic stem cells. Here we show that mice lacking VDAC3 are healthy, but males are infertile. Although there are normal sperm numbers, the sperm exhibit markedly reduced motility. Structural defects were found in two-thirds of epididymal axonemes, with the most common abnormality being loss of a single microtubule doublet at a conserved position within the axoneme. In testicular sperm, the defect was only rarely observed, suggesting that instability of a normally formed axoneme occurs with sperm maturation. In contrast, tracheal epithelial cilia showed no structural abnormalities. In addition, skeletal muscle mitochondria were abnormally shaped, and activities of the respiratory chain complexes were reduced. These results demonstrate that axonemal defects may be caused by associated nonaxonemal components such as mitochondrial channels and illustrate that normal mitochondrial function is required for stability of the axoneme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Blotting, Western
  • Electron Transport
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / ultrastructure
  • Porins / biosynthesis
  • Porins / genetics*
  • Porins / physiology*
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm Motility / genetics*
  • Sperm Motility / physiology*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channel 1
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channels


  • Porins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Vdac1 protein, mouse
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channels
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channel 1