The SLO3 sperm-specific potassium channel plays a vital role in male fertility

FEBS Lett. 2010 Mar 5;584(5):1041-6. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2010.02.005. Epub 2010 Feb 9.


Here we show a unique example of male infertility conferred by a gene knockout of the sperm-specific, pH-dependent SLO3 potassium channel. In striking contrast to wild-type sperm which undergo membrane hyperpolarization during capacitation, we found that SLO3 mutant sperm undergo membrane depolarization. Several defects in SLO3 mutant sperm are evident under capacitating conditions, including impaired motility, a bent "hairpin" shape, and failure to undergo the acrosome reaction (AR). The failure of AR is rescued by valinomycin which hyperpolarizes mutant sperm. Thus SLO3 is the principal potassium channel responsible for capacitation-induced hyperpolarization, and membrane hyperpolarization is crucial to the AR.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acrosome Reaction / genetics
  • Acrosome Reaction / physiology
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Infertility, Male / metabolism
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / genetics
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Sperm Capacitation / genetics
  • Sperm Capacitation / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • Spermatozoa / pathology


  • Kcnu1 protein, mouse
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels