[MARMAM] New publication on the energetic landscape of toothed whale sperm cells

Stephanie Plön, PhD stephanie.ploen at gmail.com
Fri Jun 25 02:25:37 PDT 2021

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of my co-authors, I am happy to announce our recent publication in*
Current Biology*:

*A drastic shift in the energetic landscape of toothed whale sperm cells*

Luís Q. Alves, Raquel Ruivo,Raul Valente, Miguel M. Fonseca, Andre M.
Machado, Stephanie Plön, Nuno Monteiro, David García-Parraga,Sara Ruiz-Díaz,
 Maria J. Sánchez-Calabuig, Alfonso Gutierrez-Adán and L. Filipe C. Castro

Current Biology (2021), https:// doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.05.062


Mammalian spermatozoa are a notable example of metabolic
compartmentalization.  Energy in the form of ATP production, vital for
motility, capacitation, and fertilization, is subcellularly separated in
sperm cells. While glycolysis provides a local, rapid, and low-yielding
input of ATP along the flagellum fibrous sheath, oxidative phosphorylation
(OXPHOS), far more efficient over a longer time frame, is concentrated in
the midpiece mitochondria. The relative weight of glycolysis and OXPHOS
pathways in sperm function is variable among species and sensitive to
oxygen and substrate availability. Besides partitioning energy
production, sperm
cell energetics display an additional singularity: the occurrence of
sperm-specific gene duplicates and

alternative spliced variants, with conserved function but structurally
bound to the flagellar fibrous sheath. The wider selective forces driving
the compartmentalization and adaptability of this energy system in mammalian
species remain largely unknown, much like the impact of ecosystem resource
availability (e.g., carbohydrates, fatty acids, and proteins) and dietary
adaptations in reproductive physiology traits. Here, we investigated the
Cetacea, an iconic group of fully aquatic and carnivorous marine mammals,
evolutionarily related to extant terrestrial herbivores. In this lineage,
episodes of profound trait remodeling have been accompanied by clear
genomic signatures. We show that toothed whales exhibit impaired sperm

due to gene and exon erosion, and demonstrate that dolphin spermatozoa
motility depends on endogenous fatty acid b-oxidation, but not
carbohydrates. Such unique energetic rewiring substantiates the observation of
large mitochondria in toothed whale spermatozoa and emphasizes the radical
physiological reorganization imposed by the transition to a
carbohydrate-depleted marine environment.

A copy of the publication can be found and downloaded at the following link:
Please feel free to email me for a pdf copy at: stephanie.ploen at gmail.com

Dr. Stephanie Plön

Assoc. Professor in Medical Virology

Department of Pathology, Stellenbosch University


Bayworld Centre for Research and Education (BCRE)

Port Elizabeth

South Africa

Cell: +27-76-3791067


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