Calcium channels in the development, maturation, and function of spermatozoa

Physiol Rev. 2011 Oct;91(4):1305-55. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00028.2010.


A proper dialogue between spermatozoa and the egg is essential for conception of a new individual in sexually reproducing animals. Ca(2+) is crucial in orchestrating this unique event leading to a new life. No wonder that nature has devised different Ca(2+)-permeable channels and located them at distinct sites in spermatozoa so that they can help fertilize the egg. New tools to study sperm ionic currents, and image intracellular Ca(2+) with better spatial and temporal resolution even in swimming spermatozoa, are revealing how sperm ion channels participate in fertilization. This review critically examines the involvement of Ca(2+) channels in multiple signaling processes needed for spermatozoa to mature, travel towards the egg, and fertilize it. Remarkably, these tiny specialized cells can express exclusive channels like CatSper for Ca(2+) and SLO3 for K(+), which are attractive targets for contraception and for the discovery of novel signaling complexes. Learning more about fertilization is a matter of capital importance; societies face growing pressure to counteract rising male infertility rates, provide safe male gamete-based contraceptives, and preserve biodiversity through improved captive breeding and assisted conception initiatives.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acrosome Reaction / physiology
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / analysis
  • Calcium Channels / physiology*
  • Fertilization / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sperm Motility / physiology
  • Spermatogenesis / physiology*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*


  • Calcium Channels