Sperm function, protein phosphorylation, and metabolism differ in mice lacking successive sperm-specific glycolytic enzymes

Biol Reprod. 2017 Oct 1;97(4):586-597. doi: 10.1093/biolre/iox103.


Glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase-S (GAPDHS) and phosphoglycerate kinase 2 (PGK2), two isozymes restricted to the male germline, catalyze successive steps in the glycolytic pathway in mammalian sperm. Although gene targeting of each isozyme demonstrated that glycolysis is required for normal sperm motility and male fertility, the phenotype of mice lacking GAPDHS is more severe than that of mice lacking PGK2. This study examined sperm function, signaling pathways, and metabolism to investigate factors that contribute to the phenotypic differences between these knockout models. Sperm from the two knockouts exhibited comparable deficits in zona binding, in vitro fertilization with or without zona drilling, and capacitation-dependent tyrosine phosphorylation. In contrast, signaling and metabolic differences were apparent prior to capacitation. Phosphorylation of sperm protein phosphatase 1, which has been associated with the acquisition of motile capacity during epididymal maturation, was deficient only in GAPDHS-null sperm. Carnitine, choline, phosphocholine, and taurine were elevated in sperm from both knockouts immediately after collection from the epididymis. However, only carnitine levels in PGK2-null sperm were significantly different from wild-type sperm, while all four metabolites were significantly higher in GAPDHS-null sperm. We confirmed that glycolysis is required for robust hyperactivation, but found that the motility of PGK2-null sperm improved to levels comparable to wild-type sperm with pyruvate as the sole metabolic substrate. This nonglycolysable substrate did not improve progressive motility in GAPDHS-null sperm. These results identify multiple signaling and metabolic defects that are likely contributors to male infertility and the absence of progressive sperm motility seen in mice lacking GAPDHS.

Keywords: glycolysis; male infertility; metabolism; signal transduction; sperm maturation; sperm motility.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (Phosphorylating) / genetics
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (Phosphorylating) / metabolism*
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Phosphoglycerate Kinase / genetics
  • Phosphoglycerate Kinase / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Phosphatase 1 / genetics
  • Protein Phosphatase 1 / metabolism
  • Pyruvic Acid
  • Spermatozoa / enzymology*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*


  • Isoenzymes
  • Pyruvic Acid
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (Phosphorylating)
  • Phosphoglycerate Kinase
  • phosphoglycerate kinase, testis specific
  • Protein Phosphatase 1