LRRC8/VRAC anion channels are required for late stages of spermatid development in mice


  • J.C. Lück
  • D. Puchkov
  • F. Ullrich
  • T.J. Jentsch


  • Journal of Biological Chemistry


  • J Biol Chem 293 (30): 11796-11808


  • Spermatogenesis is a highly complex developmental process that occurs primarily in seminiferous tubules of the testes and requires additional maturation steps in the epididymis and beyond. Mutations in many different genes can lead to defective spermatozoa and hence to male infertility. Some of these genes encode for ion channels and transporters that play roles in various processes such as cellular ion homeostasis, signal transduction, sperm motility, and the acrosome reaction. Here we show that germ cell-specific, but not Sertoli cell-specific, disruption of Lrrc8a leads to abnormal sperm and male infertility in mice. LRRC8A (leucine-rich repeat containing 8 A) is the only obligatory subunit of heteromeric volume-regulated VRAC anion channels. Its ablation severely compromises cell volume regulation by completely abolishing the transport of anions and osmolytes through VRAC. Consistent with impaired volume regulation, the cytoplasm of late spermatids appeared swollen. These cells failed to properly reduce their cytoplasm during further development into spermatozoa and later displayed severely disorganized mitochondrial sheaths in the midpiece region as well as angulated or coiled flagella. These changes, which progressed in severity on the way to the epididymis, resulted in dramatically reduced sperm motility. Our work shows that VRAC, probably through its role in cell volume regulation, is required in a cell-autonomous manner for proper sperm development and explains the male infertility of Lrrc8a(-/-) mice and the spontaneous mouse mutant ébouriffé.