The CatSper channel controls chemosensation in sea urchin sperm

EMBO J. 2015 Feb 3;34(3):379-92. doi: 10.15252/embj.201489376. Epub 2014 Dec 22.


Sperm guidance is controlled by chemical and physical cues. In many species, Ca(2+) bursts in the flagellum govern navigation to the egg. In Arbacia punctulata, a model system of sperm chemotaxis, a cGMP signaling pathway controls these Ca(2+) bursts. The underlying Ca(2+) channel and its mechanisms of activation are unknown. Here, we identify CatSper Ca(2+) channels in the flagellum of A. punctulata sperm. We show that CatSper mediates the chemoattractant-evoked Ca(2+) influx and controls chemotactic steering; a concomitant alkalization serves as a highly cooperative mechanism that enables CatSper to transduce periodic voltage changes into Ca(2+) bursts. Our results reveal intriguing phylogenetic commonalities but also variations between marine invertebrates and mammals regarding the function and control of CatSper. The variations probably reflect functional and mechanistic adaptations that evolved during the transition from external to internal fertilization.

Keywords: Ca2+ signaling; CatSper; chemotaxis; sperm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / genetics
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology*
  • Sea Urchins / genetics
  • Sea Urchins / metabolism*


  • Calcium Channels