Low concentrations of methanol, 2-propanol and ethylene glycol increase the asymmetry of the flagellar waveforms ad the turning rate of both live sperm and potentially symmetrical sperm reactivated with 1 mM-MgATP2-, while at the same time causing a decrease in the heat frequency. Similar effects are observed if the solvents are added to preparations of potentially symmetrical sperm reactivated in the presence of 1 mM free Ca2+, or to potentially asymmetrical sperm reactivated without added Ca2+, A second group of solvents, N,N-dimethylformamide, formamide and p-dioxane, also decrease the flagellar beat frequency, but have the opposite effect on symmetry, reducing the asymmetry of the waveforms and the turning rate of potentially symmetrical sperm reactivated in the presence of 1 mM free Ca2+. These effects of solvents are all reversible within about 5 min after initial exposure to solvent. Higher concentrations of methanol and 2-propanol (above approximately 5 and 0.8 mole %, respectively) induce quiescence in potentially asymmetrical sperm reactivated with concentrations of MgATP2- ranging from 10 microM to 1 mM. The quiescent flagella initially assume a bent form very similar to that seen in Ca2+-induced quiescence, and show a subsequent time-dependent distortion of the initial bent from with eventual disintegration and splitting off of bundles of microtubules. Dimethylformamide, formamide and dioxane have almost no effect on the intrinsic asymmetry of potentially asymmetrical sperm reactivated in the absence of added Ca2+, but addition of these solvents to potentially asymmetrical sperm that have been induced to become quiescent by addition of 0.1 mM free Ca2+ causes the sperm to resume swimming with flagellar waveforms that are substantially more symmetrical that those of the starting preparation before the addition of Ca2+. Mild digestion with trypsin of reactivated sperm that have been induced either to beat asymmetrically or to become quiescent by addition of methanol causes a gradual appearance of symmetrical flagellar beating, as in the case of Ca2+-induced quiescence. The flagellar beat frequency, however, remains low, at about 20 Hz. The results suggest that the solvents either mimic or block the action of CA2+ by interaction with a Ca2+-dependent regulatory protein, and may also induce alteration in the rate constants of dynein ATPase.

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