Spermatozoa undergoing capacitation, a necessary prerequisite event to successful fertilization that can be induced in vitro by reactive oxygen species (ROS), generate superoxide anion (O2.-). Because, in neutrophils, the generation of O2.- is associated with tyrosine phosphorylation of several proteins, the aim of the present study was to investigate the association between protein-tyrosine phosphorylation and ROS-induced human sperm capacitation. Human spermatozoa express two major phosphotyrosine-containing proteins of 105 and 81 kDa, the phosphotyrosine content of which is increased when spermatozoa are incubated under capacitating conditions. Superoxide dismutase and catalase abolish both sperm capacitation and tyrosine phosphorylation of p105 and p81, suggesting the involvement of O2.- and hydrogen peroxide in these two processes. Inhibitors of NADPH oxidase, the enzyme responsible for the neutrophil's respiratory burst, decrease both p105 and p81 tyrosine phosphorylation and sperm capacitation while hydrogen peroxide stimulates these two processes. Tyrosine phosphorylation of p105 and p81 occurs through a herbimycin A-sensitive tyrosine kinase, and sperm incubation with phosphotyrosine-protein phosphatase inhibitors results in an increase in phosphotyrosine content of these two proteins. Indirect immunocytochemical studies reveal phosphotyrosine-containing proteins mostly in the principal piece of the flagellum, in agreement with the localization of p105 and p81 in the human sperm fibrous sheath. Although tyrosine phosphorylation of p105 and p81 and sperm capacitation are related in a time-dependent fashion, some discrepancies are observed in the regulation of these two processes according to the redox status of the spermatozoa.