Mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR), which are responsible for the lung problems seen in cystic fibrosis patients, may also stop sperm from working normally, reports a study in the October issue of Nature Cell Biology. This may explain the infertility associated with this common hereditary disease.
Hsiao Chan and colleagues found that cells from the lining of the uterus secrete bicarbonate anions -- known to mediate sperm activation in the female reproductive tract -- which hinted that CFTR might be involved. Culturing sperm with these secreting cells activates the sperm and renders them competent for fertilization of eggs. Conversely, secreting cells that lack CFTR, or have only mutant forms linked to cystic fibrosis, could not activate sperm efficiently. Because CFTR is expressed by cells that line the female reproductive tract, the authors conclude that defects in CFTR, and thus in the activation of sperm, may be responsible for the fertility defects that occur in patients with cystic fibrosis.
Hsiao Chang Chan
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Shatin, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2609 6839
Additional contact for comment on paper:
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Tel: +1 508 856 1675
Also available online.
(C) Nature Cell Biology press release.
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