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Sperm in the Mammalian Female Reproductive Tract: Surfing Through the Tract to Try to Beat the Odds

Authors
  • Miller, David J.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Annual Review of Animal Biosciences
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
Feb 15, 2024
Volume
12
Pages
301–319
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-animal-021022-040629
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Mammalian sperm are deposited in the vagina or the cervix/uterus at coitus or at artificial insemination, and the fertilizing sperm move through the female reproductive tract to the ampulla of the oviduct, the site of fertilization. But the destination of most sperm is not the oviduct. Most sperm are carried by retrograde fluid flow to the vagina, are phagocytosed, and/or do not pass barriers on the pathway to the oviduct. The sperm that reach the site of fertilization are the exceptions and winners of one of the most stringent selection processes in nature. This review discusses the challenges sperm encounter and how the few sperm that reach the site of fertilization overcome them. The sperm that reach the goal must navigate viscoelastic fluid, swim vigorously and cooperatively along the walls of the female tract, avoid the innate immune system, and respond to potential cues to direct their movement.

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