Molecular changes and signaling events occurring in spermatozoa during epididymal maturation

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After leaving the testis, spermatozoa have not yet acquired the ability to move progressively and are unable to fertilize oocytes. To become fertilization competent, they must go through an epididymal maturation process in the male, and capacitation in the female tract. Epididymal maturation can be defined as those changes occurring to spermatozoa in the epididymis that render the spermatozoa the ability to capacitate in the female tract. As part of this process, sperm cells undergo a series of biochemical and physiological changes that require incorporation of new molecules derived from the epididymal epithelium, as well as post-translational modifications of endogenous proteins synthesized during spermiogenesis in the testis. This review will focus on epididymal maturation events, with emphasis in recent advances in the understanding of the molecular basis of this process.

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