Structural Differentiation of Spermatozoa During Post-Testicular Maturation

  • Gary E. Olson
  • Subir K. NagDas
  • Virginia P. Winfrey


The male gamete exits from the testis as a highly polarized but functionally immature spermatozoon that requires further differentiation in the epididymis to become progressively motile and to acquire fertilizing capacity. This crucial developmental process requires sperm interaction with a progressively changing luminal environment regulated by region-specific secretory and absorptive activities of the epididymal epithelium (Hinton and Palladino, 1995; Hinton et al., 1996). Early studies demonstrated striking differences in the electrophoretic mobility of whole caput and cauda epididymal spermatozoa (Bedford, 1963), suggesting that a maturation-dependent increase in anionic residues on the sperm surface resulted from this interaction. This idea was confirmed ultrastructurally by cytochemical studies demonstrating altered binding of charged colloidal iron particles and lectins to specific surface domains of the spermatozoon as they transit the epididymis (Yanagimachi et al., 1972; Nicolson et al., 1977). Now it is recognized that an extensive biochemical remodeling of the protein, glycoprotein and lipid composition of the sperm plasma membrane is an important component of post-testicular sperm maturation (Bartles, 1995; Jones 1998; Ladha, 1998).


Acrosome Reaction Epididymal Spermatozoon Sperm Maturation Fibrous Sheath Sperm Plasma Membrane 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary E. Olson
    • 1
  • Subir K. NagDas
    • 1
  • Virginia P. Winfrey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cell BiologyVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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