Ram and human spermatozoa have a high coefficient of osmotic water permeability (Pf) with a low activation energy (Ea), suggesting the presence of water channels within their plasma membranes. Sperm membranes were examined for the presence of two known water channel proteins, CHIP28 and glucose transporters belonging to the GLUT family of proteins. The water permeability of ram spermatozoa was not inhibited by mercuric chloride to which the CHIP28 channel is sensitive. The CHIP28 protein was not located in western blots of ram sperm membrane preparations that used an anti-CHIP28 antibody. The water permeability of ram and human spermatozoa was inhibited in the presence of phloretin, an inhibitor of glucose transport. Rabbit spermatozoa, which have a low Pf and a high Ea value, suggesting a non-porous membrane, were unaffected by phloretin. These results indicate that the erythrocyte and proximal tubule water channel, CHIP28, is not present in sperm membranes but that sperm membrane glucose transporters may have a secondary water channel function.
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