Two-dimensional slither swimming of sperm within a micrometre of a surface

Reza Nosrati, Amine Driouchi, Christopher M. Yip, David Sinton

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Sperm motion near surfaces plays a crucial role in fertilization, but the nature of this motion has not been resolved. Using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, we selectively imaged motile human and bull sperm located within one micron of a surface, revealing a distinct two-dimensional (2D) 'slither' swimming mode whereby the full cell length (50-80 μm) is confined within 1 μm of a surface. This behaviour is distinct from bulk and near-wall swimming modes where the flagellar wave is helical and the head continuously rotates. The slither mode is intermittent (∼1 s, ∼70 μm), and in human sperm, is observed only for viscosities over 20mPa · s. Bull sperm are slower in this surface-confined swimming mode, owing to a decrease in their flagellar wave amplitude. In contrast, human sperm are ∼50% faster-suggesting a strategy that is well suited to the highly viscous and confined lumen within the human fallopian tube.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9703
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

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