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Concept: Spermatozoon


Adverse temporal trends in human semen quality and cryptorchidism in infants have been associated with exposure to environmental chemicals (ECs) during development. Here we report that a population of breeding dogs exhibit a 26 year (1988-2014) decline in sperm quality and a concurrent increased incidence of cryptorchidism in male offspring (1995-2014). A decline in the number of males born relative to the number of females was also observed. ECs, including diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and polychlorinated bisphenol 153 (PCB153), were detected in adult dog testes and commercial dog foods at concentrations reported to perturb reproductive function in other species. Testicular concentrations of DEHP and PCB153 perturbed sperm viability, motility and DNA integrity in vitro but did not affect LH stimulated testosterone secretion from adult testis explants. The direct effects of chemicals on sperm may therefore contribute to the decline in canine semen quality that parallels that reported in the human.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Sperm, Sex, Testicle, Spermatozoon, Semen, Epididymis


If humans ever start to live permanently in space, assisted reproductive technology using preserved spermatozoa will be important for producing offspring; however, radiation on the International Space Station (ISS) is more than 100 times stronger than that on Earth, and irradiation causes DNA damage in cells and gametes. Here we examined the effect of space radiation on freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the ISS for 9 mo at -95 °C, with launch and recovery at room temperature. DNA damage to the spermatozoa and male pronuclei was slightly increased, but the fertilization and birth rates were similar to those of controls. Next-generation sequencing showed only minor genomic differences between offspring derived from space-preserved spermatozoa and controls, and all offspring grew to adulthood and had normal fertility. Thus, we demonstrate that although space radiation can damage sperm DNA, it does not affect the production of viable offspring after at least 9 mo of storage on the ISS.

Concepts: Gene, Male, Reproduction, Female, Sperm, Fertility, Spermatozoon, International Space Station


Development of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in the dog has resisted progress for decades, due to their unique reproductive physiology. This lack of progress is remarkable given the critical role ART could play in conserving endangered canid species or eradicating heritable disease through gene-editing technologies-an approach that would also advance the dog as a biomedical model. Over 350 heritable disorders/traits in dogs are homologous with human conditions, almost twice the number of any other species. Here we report the first live births from in vitro fertilized embryos in the dog. Adding to the practical significance, these embryos had also been cryopreserved. Changes in handling of both gametes enabled this progress. The medium previously used to capacitate sperm excluded magnesium because it delayed spontaneous acrosome exocytosis. We found that magnesium significantly enhanced sperm hyperactivation and ability to undergo physiologically-induced acrosome exocytosis, two functions essential to fertilize an egg. Unlike other mammals, dogs ovulate a primary oocyte, which reaches metaphase II on Days 4-5 after the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. We found that only on Day 6 are oocytes consistently able to be fertilized. In vitro fertilization of Day 6 oocytes with sperm capacitated in medium supplemented with magnesium resulted in high rates of embryo development (78.8%, n = 146). Intra-oviductal transfer of nineteen cryopreserved, in vitro fertilization (IVF)-derived embryos resulted in seven live, healthy puppies. Development of IVF enables modern genetic approaches to be applied more efficiently in dogs, and for gamete rescue to conserve endangered canid species.

Concepts: Reproduction, Spermatozoon, In vitro fertilisation, Meiosis, Ovulation, Zygote, Dog, Canidae


The calcium channel of sperm (CatSper) is essential for sperm hyperactivated motility and fertility. The steroid hormone progesterone activates CatSper of human sperm via binding to the serine hydrolase ABHD2. However, steroid specificity of ABHD2 has not been evaluated. Here, we explored whether steroid hormones to which human spermatozoa are exposed in the male and female genital tract influence CatSper activation via modulation of ABHD2. The results show that testosterone, estrogen, and hydrocortisone did not alter basal CatSper currents, whereas the neurosteroid pregnenolone sulfate exerted similar effects as progesterone, likely binding to the same site. However, physiological concentrations of testosterone and hydrocortisone inhibited CatSper activation by progesterone. Additionally, testosterone antagonized the effect of pregnenolone sulfate. We have also explored whether steroid-like molecules, such as the plant triterpenoids pristimerin and lupeol, affect sperm fertility. Interestingly, both compounds competed with progesterone and pregnenolone sulfate and significantly reduced CatSper activation by either steroid. Furthermore, pristimerin and lupeol considerably diminished hyperactivation of capacitated spermatozoa. These results indicate that (i) pregnenolone sulfate together with progesterone are the main steroids that activate CatSper and (ii) pristimerin and lupeol can act as contraceptive compounds by averting sperm hyperactivation, thus preventing fertilization.

Concepts: Cholesterol, Sperm, Estrogen, Testosterone, Spermatozoon, Progesterone, Steroid, Pregnenolone


Spermatogenesis is a complex process reliant upon interactions between germ cells (GC) and supporting somatic cells. Testicular Sertoli cells (SC) support GCs during maturation through physical attachment, the provision of nutrients, and protection from immunological attack. This role is facilitated by an active cytoskeleton of parallel microtubule arrays that permit transport of nutrients to GCs, as well as translocation of spermatids through the seminiferous epithelium during maturation. It is well established that chemical perturbation of SC microtubule remodelling leads to premature GC exfoliation demonstrating that microtubule remodelling is an essential component of male fertility, yet the genes responsible for this process remain unknown. Using a random ENU mutagenesis approach, we have identified a novel mouse line displaying male-specific infertility, due to a point mutation in the highly conserved ATPase domain of the novel KATANIN p60-related microtubule severing protein Katanin p60 subunit A-like1 (KATNAL1). We demonstrate that Katnal1 is expressed in testicular Sertoli cells (SC) from 15.5 days post-coitum (dpc) and that, consistent with chemical disruption models, loss of function of KATNAL1 leads to male-specific infertility through disruption of SC microtubule dynamics and premature exfoliation of spermatids from the seminiferous epithelium. The identification of KATNAL1 as an essential regulator of male fertility provides a significant novel entry point into advancing our understanding of how SC microtubule dynamics promotes male fertility. Such information will have resonance both for future treatment of male fertility and the development of non-hormonal male contraceptives.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Testicle, Spermatozoon, Sertoli cell, Spermatogenesis


Background Ovarian aging and cytotoxic treatments are the most common causes for fertility loss in women. With increasing numbers of young female survivors following cytotoxic cancer treatments, the issue of fertility preservation has assumed greater importance. Methods We review the literature on the causes of female fertility loss as well as the recent advances in fertility preservation options and strategies that might be of interest to oncologists. Currently, several methods and techniques exist for fertility preservation of female patients with cancer including embryo freezing, ovarian protection techniques, oocyte cryopreservation, ovarian tissue cryopreservation followed by autotransplantation, and recently in vitro culture of ovarian tissue, follicles, and oocytes. Each method or technique has advantages and disadvantages related to current success rate, required delay in cancer treatment, sperm requirement, and risk of reintroducing cancer cells. Results To date, embryo freezing is the only established method successfully and widely used for fertility preservation of female patients with cancer. The other methods are promising but still considered experimental. Conclusion Patient awareness, physician knowledge, early counseling, costs management, international registry, interdisciplinary networks, and research development are necessary to improve the current care in the field of female fertility preservation.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Fertility, Spermatozoon, Zygote, Cryobiology, Cryopreservation, Oocyte cryopreservation


OBJECTIVE: To determine the diagnostic value of the following sperm function tests in predicting the fertilizing ability of spermatozoa in conventional in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): hyaluronan-binding assay (HBA), DNA fragmentation (Halosperm), and hyperactivity. DESIGN: Prospective study. SETTING: University medical center. PATIENT(S): 133 couples undergoing infertility treatment with IVF/ICSI. INTERVENTION(S): Analysis of sperm DNA fragmentation, hyaluronan-binding ability, and hyperactivation on washed semen samples used for the insemination of oocytes. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Correlation between the results of sperm function tests and the fertilization rate (FR) or embryo quality (EQ) after IVF and ICSI. Comparison of the sperm DNA fragmentation, hyperactivation, and hyaluronan binding ability between cycles with less than 50% (group 1) and more than 50% (group 2) of oocytes fertilized after IVF. RESULT(S): Both FR and EQ in IVF cycles negatively correlated with sperm DNA fragmentation. Furthermore, a positive correlation was observed between FR and hyaluronan-binding ability or induced hyperactivity. The semen samples from the IVF cycles with low FR (group 1) were characterized by statistically significantly higher sperm DNA fragmentation and lower hyaluronan-binding ability in comparison with semen samples from the group with high levels of fertilization (group 2). In ICSI cycles, no relationship was found between sperm function tests and FR or EQ. CONCLUSION(S): The Halosperm test, the HBA test, and induced hyperactivity are useful in predicting the ability of spermatozoa to fertilize oocytes in IVF and are helpful in distinguishing semen samples suitable for IVF or ICSI.

Concepts: Reproduction, Sperm, Fertility, Spermatozoon, In vitro fertilisation, Semen, Implantation, Fertilisation


In order to be able to fertilize oocytes, human sperm must undergo a series of morphological and structural alterations, known as capacitation. It has been shown that the production of endogenous sperm reactive oxygen species (ROS) plays a key role in causing cells to undergo a massive acrosome reaction (AR). Astaxanthin (Asta), a photo-protective red pigment belonging to the carotenoid family, is recognized as having anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties and is present in many dietary supplements. This study evaluates the effect of Asta in a capacitating buffer which induces low ROS production and low percentages of acrosome-reacted cells (ARC). Sperm cells were incubated in the presence or absence of increasing concentrations of Asta or diamide (Diam) and analyzed for their ROS production, Tyr-phosphorylation (Tyr-P) pattern and percentages of ARC and non-viable cells (NVC). Results show that Asta ameliorated both sperm head Tyr-P and ARC values without affecting the ROS generation curve, whereas Diam succeeded in enhancing the Tyr-P level but only of the flagellum without increasing ARC values. It is suggested that Asta can be inserted in the membrane and therefore create capacitation-like membrane alteration which allow Tyr-P of the head. Once this has occurred, AR can take place and involves a higher numbers of cells.

Concepts: Organelle, Antioxidant, Sperm, Reactive oxygen species, Fertility, Spermatozoon, Germ cells, Acrosome


Despite a strict requirement for sterol removal for sperm to undergo acrosome exocytosis (AE), the mechanisms by which changes in membrane sterols are transduced into changes in sperm fertilization competence are poorly understood. We have previously shown in live murine sperm that the plasma membrane overlying the acrosome (APM) contains several types of micro-domains known as membrane rafts. When characterizing the membrane raft-associated proteomes, we identified phospholipase B (PLB), a calcium-independent enzyme exhibiting multiple activities. Here, we show that sperm surface PLB is activated in response to sterol removal. Both biochemical activity assays and immunoblots of sub-cellular fractions of sperm incubated with the sterol acceptor 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (2-OHCD) confirmed the release of an active PLB fragment. Specific protease inhibitors prevented PLB activation, revealing a mechanistic requirement for proteolytic cleavage. Competitive inhibitors of PLB reduced both the ability of sperm to undergo AE and to fertilize oocytes in vitro, suggesting an important role in fertilization. This was reinforced by our finding that incubation with either protein concentrate released from 2-OHCD-treated sperm, or with recombinant PLB peptide corresponding to the catalytic domain, were both able to induce AE in the absence of other stimuli. Together, these results lead us to propose a novel mechanism by which sterol removal promotes membrane fusogenicity and AE, helping confer fertilization competence. Importantly, this mechanism provides a basis for the newly emerging model of AE in which membrane fusions occur during capacitation/transit through the cumulus, prior to any physical contact between the sperm and the oocyte’s zona pellucida.

Concepts: Enzyme, Cell membrane, Enzyme inhibitor, Spermatozoon, In vitro fertilisation, Protease, Zona pellucida, Zygote


Understanding and sustaining biodiversity is a multi-disciplinary science that benefits highly from the creation of organized and accessible collections of biomaterials (Genome Resource Banks). Large cryo-collections are invaluable tools for understanding, cataloging, and protecting the genetic diversity of the world’s unique animals and plants. Specifically, the systematic collection and preservation of semen from rare species has been developed significantly in recent decades with some biobanks now being actively used for endangered species management and propagation (including the introduction of species such as the black-footed ferret and the giant panda). Innovations emerging from the growing field of male fertility preservation for humans, livestock species, and laboratory animals are also becoming relevant to the protection and the propagation of valuable domestic and wild species. These new approaches extend beyond the “classical” methods associated with sperm freezing to include testicular tissue preservation combined with xenografting or in vitro culture, all of which have potential for rescuing vast amounts of unused germplasm. There also are other options under development that are predicted to have a high impact within the next decade (stem cell technologies, bio-stabilization of sperm cells at ambient temperatures, and the use of genomics tools). However, biobanking efforts and new fertility preservation strategies have to expand the way beyond mammalian species, which will offer knowledge and tools to better manage species that serve as valuable biomedical models or require assistance to reverse endangerment.

Concepts: Cell, Biodiversity, Species, Sperm, Endangered species, Fertility, Spermatozoon, Giant Panda