The pseudopods of Caenorhabditis elegans spermatozoa move actively causing some cells to translocate when the sperm are dissected into a low osmotic strength buffered salts solution. On time-lapse video tapes, pseudopodial projections can be seen moving at 20-45 micrometers/min from the tip to the base of the pseudopod. This movement occurs whether or not the cell is attached to a substrate. Translocation of the cell is dependent on the substrate. Some spermatozoa translocate on acid-washed glass, but a better substrate is prepared by drying an extract of Ascaris uteri (the normal site of nematode sperm motility) onto glass slides. On this substrate more than half the spermatozoa translocate at a velocity (21 micrometers/min) similar to that observed in vivo. Translocating cells attach to the substrate by their pseudopodial projections. They always move toward the pseudopod; changes in direction are caused by changes in pseudopod shape that determine points of detachment and reattachment of the cell to the substrate. Actin comprises less than 0.02% of the proteins in sperm, and myosin is undetectable. No microfilaments are found in the sperm. Immunohistochemistry shows that some actin is localized in patches in the pseudopod. The movement of spermatozoa is unaffected by cytochalasins, however, so there is no evidence that actin participates in locomotion. Fertilization-defective mutants in genes fer-2, fer-4, and fer-6 produce spermatozoa with defective pseudopodial projections, and these spermatozoa are largely immotile. Mutants in the spermatozoa do not translocate. Thus pseudopod movement is correlated with the presence of normal projections. Twelve mutants with defective muscles have spermatozoa with normal movement, so these genes do not specify products needed for both muscle and nonmuscle cell motility.

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