Varying pH of luminal fluid along the female reproductive tract is a physiological cue that modulates sperm motility. CatSper is a sperm-specific, pH-sensitive calcium channel essential for hyperactivated motility and male fertility. Multi-subunit CatSper channel complexes organize linear Ca2+ signaling nanodomains along the sperm tail. Here, we identify EF-hand calcium-binding domain-containing protein 9 (EFCAB9) as a bifunctional, cytoplasmic machine modulating the channel activity and the domain organization of CatSper. Knockout mice studies demonstrate that EFCAB9, in complex with the CatSper subunit, CATSPERζ, is essential for pH-dependent and Ca2+-sensitive activation of the CatSper channel. In the absence of EFCAB9, sperm motility and fertility is compromised, and the linear arrangement of the Ca2+ signaling domains is disrupted. EFCAB9 interacts directly with CATSPERζ in a Ca2+-dependent manner and dissociates at elevated pH. These observations suggest that EFCAB9 is a long-sought, intracellular, pH-dependent Ca2+ sensor that triggers changes in sperm motility.
Keywords: Ca(2+) sensor; Ca(2+) signal transduction; Ca2(+) channel; CatSper; male fertility; pH sensing; sperm motility.
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