The computational sperm cell

Trends Cell Biol. 2014 Mar;24(3):198-207. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2013.10.004. Epub 2013 Dec 14.


Sperm are guided to the egg by a gradient of chemical attractants - a process called chemotaxis. The binding of the chemoattractant to receptors on the surface of the flagellum triggers a cascade of signaling events that eventually lead to an influx of Ca(2+) ions. Based on these Ca(2+) surges, which control the waveform of the flagellar beat, sperm adjust their swimming path toward the egg. In past years, many components of chemotactic signaling have been identified. Moreover, kinetic spectroscopy and imaging techniques unraveled the sequence of cellular events controlling swimming behavior. During navigation in a chemical gradient, sperm perform a surprising variety of computational operations. Here we discuss theoretical concepts of navigation strategies and the cellular underpinnings.

Keywords: calcium; chemotaxis; cilia; gradient; hydrodynamics; signaling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling / genetics
  • Chemotaxis / genetics*
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Female
  • Flagella / metabolism
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Ovum / cytology*
  • Ovum / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spermatozoa / cytology*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism


  • Calcium