About the cover
The female steroid hormone progesterone is produced by the ovaries and the placenta, and supports gestation and embryogenesis through its actions on a well-characterized nuclear progesterone receptor. But progesterone released by cells surrounding the egg also stimulates sperm cells within the Fallopian tubes and increases their fertilizing ability, and the mechanism of this action of progesterone has remained elusive. Two independent research groups now report that progesterone potently activates CatSper, the principal Ca2+ channel of the sperm flagellum. Their data demonstrate that the CatSper channel or a directly associated membrane protein serves as a novel progesterone receptor that can mediate a fast, non-genomic effect of progesterone at the level of the sperm plasma membrane. These results should help to define the physiological role of progesterone and CatSper in sperm, and could lead to the development of new classes of non-hormonal contraceptives. Illustration by René Pascal/Center of Advanced European Study and Research, Bonn, Germany.
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