2016 Volume 53 Issue 3 Pages 233-239
Being transcriptionally and translationally inactive, sperm must utilize preassembled pathways into specific compartments in which they function to fertilize ovum. Membrane rafts are specific membrane regions enriched in sterols and glycosphingolipids such as ganglioside GM1 (GM1) and play an important role in a variety of cellular functions. Recent findings have demonstrated that membrane rafts are present in mammalian sperm and are involved in regulating the induction of acrosome exocytosis. However, no information is available on whether avian sperm possess membrane rafts. Thus, we investigated the organization of membrane rafts in chicken sperm. Our localization experiments for GM1 and sterols showed that the plasma membrane overlaying the sperm head possesses specific membrane domains enriched in both aforementioned lipids. Caveolin-1, which localizes into membrane rafts in other systems, was localized only to the sperm tail. Based on the biochemical definition that membrane rafts are insoluble membranes when subjected to a Triton X-100 treatment, we isolated detergent-insoluble membranes from chicken sperm and quantified the GM1 content, which showed an enrichment of GM1 in the membrane fraction relative to the detergent-soluble fraction. Together with the results of localization and biochemical experiments, we demonstrate for the first time that membrane rafts exist in chicken sperm. Thus, our results provide a foundation for investigating a novel cellular pathway inherent in avian sperm membranes that might be involved in functions necessary to achieve fertilization.