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Volume 15, Issue 4 (July 2013) 15, 523–528; 10.1038/aja.2013.46

Mouse sperm acquire a new structure on the apical hook during epididymal maturation

Yi-Wen Lin1, Tzu-Han Hsu2 and Pauline H Yen1

1 Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei 11529, China
2 Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei 11529, China

Correspondence: Dr PH Yen, (pyen@ibms.sinica.edu.tw)

Received 30 January 2013; Revised 22 February 2013; Accepted 30 March 2013; Advance online publication 3 June 2013


Spermatozoa emerging from the testis undergo a maturation process in the epididymis during which they change morphologically, biochemically and physiologically to gain motility and the ability to fertilize ova. We examined mouse epididymal sperm with immunostaining and transmission electron microscopy (EM) and identified a previously unknown structure on the apical hook. The structure has a coiled configuration around 11 nm in thickness and is present at the tip of each corner of the triangular-rod shaped perforatorium. Surveying sperm isolated from various regions of the epididymis indicated that mouse sperm acquire the hook rim (HR) structure during its passage through the proximal two-thirds of the caput epididymidis. The structure withstands vigorous sonication and harsh chemical treatments and remains intact after the acrosome reaction. Its location and sturdiness suggest a function in protecting the apical hook from mechanical wear during fertilization. Our EM images of epididymal sperm also revealed additional novel structures as well as lateral asymmetry of the sperm head, indicating that mouse sperm head has a structure more complex than previously recognized.

Keywords: apical hook; epididymal maturation; mouse sperm; sperm head ultrastructure

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Asian Journal of Andrology CN 31-1795/R ISSN 1008-682X  Copyright © 2023  Shanghai Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences.  All rights reserved.