An egg of placental mammals has an unusually thick, elastic, and resilient coat (zona pellucida) compared to non-placental mammals. Mammalian spermatozoa overcame this challenge by developing a more complex tail that is capable of hyperactivated motility, a powerful, asymmetric, whip-like motion. Thus, what makes ‘mammalian’ fertilization successful is an intriguing biological question that remains to be thoroughly explored. Sperm cells must adapt to changes in local environments and respond to cues along the female reproductive tract. Ion channels and membrane receptors enable sperm to respond to the constantly changing environment.
We study the cellular signaling via membrane receptors and ion channels that regulate sperm motility and fertility in mammals. We aim to elucidate physiological changes during mammalian fertilization and to better understand evolution of fertility molecules. To this end, we employ mouse genetics, comparative genomics and proteomics, biochemistry, and cutting-edge imaging technologies and other molecular techniques.
Disruption of many of membrane receptors and ion channels leads to infertility in humans. The information gained from our research will improve in vitro fertilization methods and enable new contraceptive approaches. Ultimately, our research shall explain the very first life event that allows all the subsequent animal physiology.
Below are our research directions. Click on the picture to read more.