Sperm interactions with the female reproductive tract: A key for successful fertilization in mammals

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2020 Oct 1;516:110956. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2020.110956. Epub 2020 Jul 23.


Sperm migration through the female genital tract is not a quiet journey. Uterine contractions quickly operate a drastic selection, leading to a very restrictive number of sperm reaching the top of uterine horns and finally, provided the presence of key molecules on sperm, the oviduct, where fertilization takes place. During hours and sometimes days before fertilization, subpopulations of spermatozoa interact with dynamic and region-specific maternal components, including soluble proteins, extracellular vesicles and epithelial cells lining the lumen of the female tract. Interactions with uterine and oviductal cells play important roles for sperm survival as they modulate the maternal immune response and allow a transient storage before ovulation. The body of work reported here highlights the importance of sperm interactions with proteins originated from both the uterine and oviductal fluids, as well as hormonal signals around the time of ovulation for sperm acquisition of fertilizing competence.

Keywords: Exosome; Extracellular vesicle; Interaction; Oviduct; Progesterone; Protein; Spermatozoa; Utero-tubal junction; Uterus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sperm-Ovum Interactions*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*