Signaling pathways in sperm capacitation and acrosome reaction

Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 2003 May;49(3):321-7.


The binding to the egg's zona pellucida stimulates the spermatozoon to undergo acrosome reaction, a process which enables the sperm to penetrate the egg. Prior to this binding, the spermatozoa underago in the female reproductive tract a series of biochemical transformations, collectively called capacitation. The first event in capacitation is cholesterol efflux leading to the elevation of intracellular calcium and bicarbonate to activate adenylyl cyclase (AC) to produce cyclic-AMP, which activates protein kinase A (PKA) to indirectly phosphorylate certain proteins on tyrosine. During capacitation, there is also an increase in protein tyrosine phosphorylation dependent actin polymerization and in the membrane-bound phospholipase C (PLC). Sperm binding to zona-pellucida causes further activation of cAMP/PKA and protein kinase C (PKC), respectively. PKC opens a calcium channel in the plasma membrane. PKA together with inositol-trisphosphate activate calcium channels in the outer acrosomal membrane, which leads to an increase in cytosolic calcium. The depletion of calcium in the acrosome will activate a store-operated calcium entry mechanism in the plasma membrane, leading to a higher increase in cytosolic calcium, resulting in F-actin dispersion which enable the outer acrosomal and the plasma membrane to come into contact and fuse completing the acrosomal reaction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acrosome Reaction*
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sperm Capacitation*
  • Sperm Motility
  • Zona Pellucida / physiology


  • Actins
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • Calcium