Low and controlled concentrations of nitric oxide play an important role in sperm physiology. Nitric oxide is produced by spermatozoa and acts as an intracellular signaling molecule in the processes of capacitation and acrosome reaction. It has been documented that during capacitation, nitric oxide interacts with the cAMP-protein kinase A pathway and also is involved in tyrosine nitration of sperm proteins. On the other hand, during the acrosome reaction, two different pathways have been postulated for nitric oxide to exert its effects. During the progesterone-induced acrosome reaction, nitric oxide stimulates a heme-containing enzyme, named cyclooxygenase with a subsequent increase in prostaglandin E2. Furthermore, the acrosome reaction inducing effect of NO-releasing compounds occurs via an increase in cGMP levels and protein kinase G activation. Taken together, these data support a role for nitric oxide in sperm function. This review focuses on providing new evidence for the physiological role of nitric oxide (NO) on sperm function. We will first present a brief description on nitric oxide chemistry and on the events leading to sperm fertilizing ability followed by the observations obtained on the participation of NO on fertilization.
Keywords: nitric oxide, signal transduction, capacitation, acrosome reaction, spermatozoa
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