Specialized proton-secreting cells play important physiological roles in a variety of tissues. On the basis of the immunocytochemical detection of carbonic anhydrase and V-ATPase in distinct epithelial cells of the epididymis and vas deferens, we predicted that the vacuolar V-ATPase that is located on the apical membrane of these cells should be a major contributor to luminal acidification in parts of the male reproductive tract. Physiological studies using the proton-selective vibrating probe in the vas deferens confirmed this hypothesis. As discussed recently, maintenance of the pH of the reproductive tract is probably under tight physiological control, by analogy with the situation in the kidney. Manipulation of luminal pH might, therefore, provide a point of intervention for the regulation of male fertility. In addition, it is possible that some cases of unexplained male infertility might result from defective acidification, resulting either from pathological states or potentially from environmental factors that may inhibit proton secretory pathways.

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