A rabbit antibody to mouse 3T3 cell fibronectin was used in conjunction with a fluorescein-tagged second antibody to detect fibronectin-like activity on the surface of rabbit spermatozoa. Only ejaculated sperm displayed an intense and highly localized fluorescence over the acrosomal region. Cauda epididymal sperm of the rabbit as well as several other species did not exhibit any reaction. The fluorescent activity could be eliminated by trypsin treatment but was re-established by incubation in cell-free seminal fluid. Sperm recovered from females 10-12 h after mating showed a reduction or absence of antifibronectin fluorescence, suggesting that this component's loss could be a factor in sperm capacitation. Because fibronectins show strong binding to collagen, mixtures of ejaculated sperm and collagen were examined in the light and electron microscope. Living sperm appear to have a strong affinity for collagen and quickly adhere to the filaments by their heads, while continuing vigorous flagellations. Surface labeling of sperm with the galactose-oxidase-NaB[3H]4 technique, extraction with urea-detergent mixtures and affinity chromatography of extracts on gelatin-Sepharose revealed a single radioactive band of mot wt approximately 40,000 after SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and fluorography.

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