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Sperm-Activating Odorous Substances in Human Follicular Fluid and Vaginal Secretion: Identification by Gas Chromatography–Olfactometry and Ca2+ Imaging

Authors

  • Constanze Hartmann,

    1. Food Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Schuhstrasse 19, 91052 Erlangen (Germany)
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  • Dr. Annika Triller,

    1. Department of Cellular Physiology, Ruhr-University, Universitätsstrasse 150, 44780 Bochum (Germany)
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  • Prof. Dr. Marc Spehr,

    1. Department of Chemosensation, Institute for Biology II, RWTH-Aachen University, Worringer Weg 1, 52074 Aachen (Germany)
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  • Prof. Dr. Ralf Dittrich,

    1. University Hospital Erlangen (OB/GYN), University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Universitätsstrasse 21–23, 91054 Erlangen (Germany)
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  • Prof. Dr. Hanns Hatt,

    1. Department of Cellular Physiology, Ruhr-University, Universitätsstrasse 150, 44780 Bochum (Germany)
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  • Prof. Dr. Andrea Buettner

    Corresponding author
    1. Food Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Schuhstrasse 19, 91052 Erlangen (Germany)
    2. Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV), Giggenhauserstrasse 35, 85354 Freising (Germany)
    • Food Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Schuhstrasse 19, 91052 Erlangen (Germany)
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Abstract

Human sperm chemotaxis to follicular fluid has been well established, but the molecular mechanism(s) for this phenomenon are still largely unclear. Studies indicate that odorant receptors expressed on spermatozoa could play a role in this scenario. It has recently been shown that several synthetic floral scents activate the receptors OR1D2, OR4D1, and OR7A5 in vitro and evoke distinct sperm motility patterns in vivo. However, all agonists found so far are of synthetic origin and, thus, the presence of endogenous structural analogues in female bodily fluids is subject to speculation. Therefore, the aim of the study reported herein was to investigate the occurrence of odor compounds in vaginal secretions and follicular fluid by using gas chromatography–olfactometry. Chemically identified constituents of either bodily fluid were then analyzed for activation of recombinant chemoreceptors and candidate ligands were further tested for induction of sperm Ca2+ signals. Through using this approach, two novel odorant receptor–ligand pairs are reported and human sperm Ca2+ elevations in response to both odorous substances, namely 5α-androst-16-en-3-one and 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone, are shown.

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