Sperm Transport Decoded




Marc Spehr


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RWTH researchers have published new findings on sperm transportation in seminal ducts in the open-access journal eLife.


Several million sperm are produced in the testicles every day. At the end of their development, the sperm make their way through a labyrinth of tiny tubes in the testicles, the so-called seminiferous tubules. Since the sperm cells are not yet able to swim independently at this stage, the question has so far been how the sperm cells are transported in the seminiferous tubules. As part of their research, Dr. David Fleck and Lina Kenzler from the Chemosensation Laboratory at the Institute for Biology II at RWTH Aachen University were able to show for the first time that mature sperm that cannot yet swim in the testis are transported by muscle tension in the outermost cell layer of the seminiferous tubules. They have now published their research results under the title "ATP activation of peritubular cells drives testicular sperm transport” in the open-access journal eLife.

In the laboratory, the researchers were able to demonstrate that an energy-rich signaling molecule – adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – controls the contraction process. Using multiphoton microscopy, the research team succeeded in showing this process in an intact organism. The new data provide a better understanding of sperm maturation and transportation and may thus have long-term therapeutic relevance for the treatment of male infertility.

The work was initially made possible by the ERS Seed Fund OPSF458 "Insights into the Molecular and Cellular Architecture of Testicular Sperm Transport", a joint project by the Institute of Imaging & Computer Vision headed by Professor Dorit Merhof and the Laboratory of Chemosensoration headed by Professor Marc Spehr.

You can find the article at eLife.