The events that occur during chemotaxis of sperm are only partly known. As an essential step toward determining the underlying mechanism, we have recorded Ca2+ dynamics in swimming sperm of marine invertebrates. Stimulation of the sea urchin Arbacia punctulata by the chemoattractant or by intracellular cGMP evokes Ca2+ spikes in the flagellum. A Ca2+ spike elicits a turn in the trajectory followed by a period of straight swimming ('turn-and-run'). The train of Ca2+ spikes gives rise to repetitive loop-like movements. When sperm swim in a concentration gradient of the attractant, the Ca2+ spikes and the stimulus function are synchronized, suggesting that precise timing of Ca2+ spikes controls navigation. We identified the peptide asterosap as a chemotactic factor of the starfish Asterias amurensis. The Ca2+ spikes and swimming behavior of sperm from starfish and sea urchin are similar, implying that the signaling pathway of chemotaxis has been conserved for almost 500 million years.
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