Rises in intracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)) caused by progesterone, an inducer of the acrosome reaction, or by cyclic nucleotides, possible second messengers, were investigated by Ca(2+) imaging of the head of individual mouse sperm. Progesterone induced a [Ca(2+)](i) rise in a dose-dependent manner (4-40 microM), primarily in the postacrosomal region. For 20-microM progesterone, Ca(2+) responses occurred in 42% of sperm, separated into two types: transient type (60% of responding cells; duration, 1-1.5 min; mean amplitude, 335 nM) and prolonged type (40%; >3 min; 730 nM). Prolonged responses required higher doses of progesterone, and their occurrence was enhanced significantly by preincubation for 2-4 h as compared with transient responses. 8-Bromo-cGMP (0.3-3 mM) induced a [Ca(2+)](i) rise more effectively than did 8-bromo-cAMP. For 1-mM 8-bromo-cGMP, 90% of cells exhibited transient Ca(2+) responses (approximately 1 min; 220 nM), independently of the preincubation time. In Ca(2+)-free medium, most sperm showed no Ca(2+) response to progesterone and 8-bromo-cGMP. Pimozide, a Ca(2+) channel blocker, completely blocked prolonged responses and partially inhibited transient responses. These results suggest that progesterone activates at least two distinct Ca(2+) influx pathways, with fast or slow inactivation kinetics, and some sperm show both types of response. A cyclic nucleotide-mediated process could participate in the progesterone-induced [Ca(2+)](i) rise.
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