Sperm motility in fishes. (II) Effects of ions and osmolality: a review

Cell Biol Int. 2006 Jan;30(1):1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.cellbi.2005.06.004. Epub 2005 Nov 8.


The spermatozoa of most fish species are immotile in the testis and seminal plasma. Therefore, motility is induced after the spermatozoa are released into the aqueous environment during natural reproduction or into the diluent during artificial reproduction. There are clear relationships between seminal plasma composition and osmolality and the duration of fish sperm motility. Various parameters such as ion concentrations (K+, Na+, and Ca2+), osmotic pressure, pH, temperature and dilution rate affect motility. In the present paper, we review the roles of these ions on sperm motility in Salmonidae, Cyprinidae, Acipenseridae and marine fishes, and their relationship with seminal plasma composition. Results in the literature show that: 1. K+ is a key ion controlling sperm motility in Salmonidae and Acipenseridae in combination with osmotic pressure; this control is more simple in other fish species: sperm motility is prevented when the osmotic pressure is high (Cyprinidae) or low (marine fishes) compared to that of the seminal fluid. 2. Cations (mostly divalent, such as Ca2+) are antagonistic with the inhibitory effect of K+ on sperm motility. 3. In many species, Ca2+ influx and K+ or Na+ efflux through specific ionic channels change the membrane potential and eventually lead to an increase in cAMP concentration in the cell, which constitutes the initiation signal for sperm motility in Salmonidae. 4. Media that are hyper- and hypo-osmotic relative to seminal fluid trigger sperm motility in marine and freshwater fishes, respectively. 5. The motility of fish spermatozoa is controlled through their sensitivity to osmolality and ion concentrations. This phenomenon is related to ionic channel activities in the membrane and governs the motility mechanisms of axonemes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / pharmacology
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Cyprinidae / physiology
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Intracellular Fluid / chemistry
  • Ions / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Osmotic Pressure
  • Potassium / pharmacology
  • Potassium / physiology
  • Salmonidae / physiology
  • Semen / chemistry*
  • Semen / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sodium / pharmacology
  • Sodium / physiology
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Sperm Motility / physiology*


  • Ions
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium