Physiological Reviews

Calcium Channels in the Development, Maturation, and Function of Spermatozoa

Alberto Darszon, Takuya Nishigaki, Carmen Beltran, Claudia L. Treviño


A proper dialogue between spermatozoa and the egg is essential for conception of a new individual in sexually reproducing animals. Ca2+ is crucial in orchestrating this unique event leading to a new life. No wonder that nature has devised different Ca2+-permeable channels and located them at distinct sites in spermatozoa so that they can help fertilize the egg. New tools to study sperm ionic currents, and image intracellular Ca2+ with better spatial and temporal resolution even in swimming spermatozoa, are revealing how sperm ion channels participate in fertilization. This review critically examines the involvement of Ca2+ channels in multiple signaling processes needed for spermatozoa to mature, travel towards the egg, and fertilize it. Remarkably, these tiny specialized cells can express exclusive channels like CatSper for Ca2+ and SLO3 for K+, which are attractive targets for contraception and for the discovery of novel signaling complexes. Learning more about fertilization is a matter of capital importance; societies face growing pressure to counteract rising male infertility rates, provide safe male gamete-based contraceptives, and preserve biodiversity through improved captive breeding and assisted conception initiatives.

View Full Text