Recent advances in sperm maturation in the human epididymis
© Société d’Andrologie de Langue Française 2002
As spermatozoa move through the human epididymis they encounter a varied environment with respect to the proteins with which they come into contact. In the proximal epididymis sperm are subjected to the action of enzymes and exposure to proteins involved in membrane modification. In the middle region another set of proteins and enzymes predominates; those associated with sterol transport could modify the sperm membrane to permit the uptake of GPI-anchored zona binding proteins P34H and CD52. More distally sperm encounter increasing activities of lytic enzymes, proteins involved in both zona binding and oocyte fusion, the major maturation antigen CD52, antimicrobial activity and decapacitation factors, that help them to survive before ejaculation. Adherence of the proteins to different domains (e.g. anterior acrosome or equatorial acrosomal segment) may depend on the nature of the protein, the lipid composition of the particular membrane and the ionic environment in the epididymal lumen. The eventual location on a capacitated sperm (acrosomal membrane) or acrosome-reacted sperm (equatorial region) may dictate their role in, for example, zona-binding (P34H) or oocyte-binding (gp20). Both proteins and membranes may be modified during epididymal transit by the enzymes which may add to or remove carbo-hydrates and peptides from the sperm surface.