Dynamics of sperm subpopulations based on motility and plasma membrane status in thawed ram spermatozoa incubated under conditions that support in vitro capacitation and fertilisation

García-Álvarez, O., Maroto-Morales, A., Ramón, M., del Olmo, E., Jiménez-Rabadán, P., Fernández-Santos, M.R., Anel-López, L., Garde, J.J., Soler, A.J. 2014. Reprod Fertil Dev. 26: 725-732.


The present study evaluated modifications occurring in thawed ram spermatozoa during incubation in different media that supported in vitro capacitation and fertilisation, and examines how these changes relate to IVF. Thawed sperm samples were incubated under capacitating (Cap) and non-capacitating (non-Cap) conditions for 0, 1 and 2 h and used in an IVF test. During incubation, changes related to membrane status and the motility pattern of spermatozoa were assessed, the latter being used to characterise sperm subpopulations. A significantly greater increase (P ≤ 0.05) in the percentage of spermatozoa with higher membrane fluidity was observed in samples incubated with Cap medium from the beginning of incubation. In addition, changes over time in the distribution of the motile subpopulation were particularly evident when spermatozoa were incubated with Cap medium, with a noted increase in spermatozoa classified as ‘hyperactivated like’, with major changes occurring after 1 h incubation. Both characteristics (i.e. membrane fluidity and the percentage of the hyperactivated-like subpopulation) were significantly related with in vitrofertility, and only sperm samples incubated with the Cap medium were capable of fertilising oocytes. These results support the idea that changes in sperm membrane fluidity and motility pattern (i.e. an increase in hyperactivated spermatozoa) are needed for fertilisation to take place.

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