Macaque sperm coating protein DEFB126 facilitates sperm penetration of cervical mucus

Theodore L Tollner, Ashley I. Yudin, Cathy A. Treece, James W. Overstreet, Gary N. Cherr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Sperm coating protein beta-defensin 126 (DEFB126) is adsorbed onto the entire surface of macaque sperm in the caudal epididymis and is retained on viable sperm collected from the cervix and the uterine lumen of mated female macaques. We investigated the role of sperm coating protein DEFB126 in cervical mucus penetration (CMP). METHODS: Cervical mucus (CM) was collected from peri-ovulatory female macaques and loaded into CMP chambers. Sperm were introduced to CMP chambers following treatment with either polyclonal antibodies raised to DEFB126 or seminal plasma proteins (SPPs), 1 mM caffeine+1 mM dibutyryl cyclic adenosine monophosphate (dbcAMP) (induces release of DEFB126 from sperm surface), neuraminidase (NMase) or poly-L-lysine (PLP). Following removal of DEFB126 or SPPs from the sperm surface, sperm were treated with concentrated DEFB126 or concentrated SPPs prior to being introduced to CMP chambers. The numbers of sperm that penetrated and traversed CM were scored over 6 min. RESULTS: Treatment of sperm with anti-DEFB126 antibodies, 1 mM caffeine+1 mM dbcAMP, NMase, and PLP resulted in similar and significant levels of inhibition of sperm CMP, whereas addition of anti-SPPs antibodies had no effect. In experiments where DEFB126 and SPPs were removed, CMP capability of sperm was restored by addition of DEFB126 back to the sperm surface, whereas treatment of sperm with concentrated SPPs slightly inhibited sperm penetration. CONCLUSIONS: DEFB126 and its high negative charge appears to be critical for the movement of sperm through CM in the macaque, while SPPs adhered to the sperm surface offer no advantage in CMP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2523-2534
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Cervical mucus penetration
  • DEFB126
  • Sperm glycocalyx
  • Sperm surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Reproductive Medicine


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