Sperm motility in the horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus L. I. Sperm behavior near eggs and motility initiation by egg extracts

  • Clapper D
  • Brown G
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Limulus spermatozoa are nonmotile when spawned and become motile only after encountering a sperm motility initiating factor (SMI) exuded by the egg. SMI extracts (produced by washing intact eggs with distilled water, lyophilizing the supernatant to dryness, and redissolving the dried extract in artificial seawater, ASW) initiate sperm motility in the absence of eggs. Utilizing such SMI extracts, sperm motility initiation was found to be unaffected by changes in temperature from 16 to 30°C, pH from 6.3 to 8.6, and salinity from 85 to 125% ASW. Within these ranges, sperm motility initiation was an "all-or-nothing" response, with greater than 99% of the spermatozoa becoming motile. Also, each sperm swam with apparently the same speed (at a given temperature) until spontaneously stopping within 10 min after the addition of SMI extracts. Evidence was found that SMI may bind irreversibly to a receptor, which is inactivated within a few seconds or minutes, leading to the observed cessation of motility. Observations of sperm behavior near intact eggs showed no evidence of chemotaxis. Spermatozoa observed to swim toward intact eggs progressed with a uniform speed and were motile less than 5 sec from initiation of motility until attaching to the egg. The presence of an all-or-nothing response to SMI, the independence of sperm motility to experimental parameters, and several other characteristics of the animal and its spermatozoa make Limulus a potentially excellent model animal for examination of sperm motility control mechanisms. © 1980.

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  • David L. Clapper

  • George G. Brown

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