Complexin I is required for mammalian sperm acrosomal exocytosis

Dev Biol. 2007 Sep 15;309(2):236-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2007.07.009. Epub 2007 Jul 19.


Regulated exocytosis in many cells is controlled by the SNARE complex, whose core includes three proteins that promote membrane fusion. Complexins I and II are highly related cytosolic proteins that bind tightly to the assembled SNARE complex and regulate neuronal exocytosis. Like somatic cells, sperm undergo regulated exocytosis; however, sperm release a single large vesicle, the acrosome, whose release has different characteristics than neuronal exocytosis. Acrosomal release is triggered upon sperm adhesion to the mammalian egg extracellular matrix (zona pellucida) to allow penetration of the egg coat. Membrane fusion occurs at multiple points within the acrosome but how fusion is activated and the formation and progression of fusion points is synchronized is unclear. We show that complexins I and II are found in acrosome-intact mature sperm, bind to SNARE complex proteins, and are not detected in sperm after acrosomal exocytosis (acrosome reaction). Although complexin-I-deficient sperm acrosome-react in response to calcium ionophore, they do not acrosome-react in response to egg zona pellucida proteins and have reduced fertilizing ability, in vitro. Complexin II is present in the complexin-I-deficient sperm and its expression is increased in complexin-I-deficient testes. Therefore, complexin I functions in exocytosis in two related but morphologically distinct secretory processes. Sperm are unusual because they express both complexins I and II but have a unique and specific requirement for complexin I.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrosome / physiology*
  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Animals
  • Exocytosis / physiology*
  • Male
  • Membrane Fusion
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*
  • Zona Pellucida / physiology*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • complexin I
  • complexin II