Research ArticleBIOPHYSICS

Strictures of a microchannel impose fierce competition to select for highly motile sperm

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  13 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaav2111
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav2111


Investigating sperm locomotion in the presence of external fluid flow and geometries simulating the female reproductive tract can lead to a better understanding of sperm motion during fertilization. Using a microfluidic device featuring a stricture that simulates the fluid mechanical properties of narrow junctions inside the female reproductive tract, we documented the gate-like role played by the stricture in preventing sperm with motilities below a certain threshold from advancing through the stricture to the other side (i.e., fertilization site). All the slower sperm accumulate below (i.e., in front of) the stricture and swim in a butterfly-shaped path between the channel walls, thus maintaining the potential for penetrating the stricture and ultimately advancing toward the fertilization site. Accumulation below the stricture occurs in a hierarchical manner so that dense concentrations of sperm with higher velocities remain closer to the stricture, with more sparsely distributed arrays of lower-velocity sperm lagging behind.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text