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Reproduction. 2004 Dec;128(6):829-42.

Functional significance of the cell volume for detecting sperm membrane changes and predicting freezability in dog semen.

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  • 1Institute for Reproductive Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine Hannover Foundation, Bünteweg 15, 30559 Hannover, Germany.


Due to the similarity of plasma membrane changes induced by capacitation and cryopreservation, the parameters describing sperm response to capacitating conditions can be used for evaluating the cryopreservation response in many animal systems. In dog sperm, the response of the total sperm population to ionophore treatment has been shown to be an indication of the freezability of semen samples. Another sperm functional characteristic decisive for cryopreservability is cell volume regulation, due to the generation of essential osmotic gradients across the plasma membrane during the freeze-thaw cycles. In the present study, cryopreservation-induced changes in the membrane functional integrity were examined by monitoring the osmotically induced response of cell volume and the response to an ionophore in live cell populations. Cell volume measurements were performed on Percoll-washed suspensions of freshly diluted and frozen-thawed dog spermatozoa. The proportion of live acrosome-reacted cells was evaluated by flow cytometry after incubation under capacitating conditions in the presence of the calcium ionophore, A23187. During freezing-thawing, significant membrane changes occurred related to the disturbance of volume control ability and the loss of a proportion of live acrosome-reacted cells (P < 0.05). There were significant differences between individuals with respect to the degree of functional and structural membrane changes after thawing. Significant correlations were found between acrosomal integrity and functional membrane integrity. When assessed in freshly diluted semen, these parameters correlated with those of frozen-thawed semen samples, pointing to the similarities between mechanisms of cryopreservation-related changes and those mechanisms that mediate changes in membrane permeabilities and in cell volume regulation. The detection of changes in the sperm plasma membrane by monitoring the sperm cell volume represents a simple, rapid and sensitive method to estimate sperm quality after the cryopreservation procedure. The individual variability in response to osmotic stress or to calcium ionophore treatment appears to reflect the subtle differences in the sperm membrane functionality which are crucial for the prediction of cryopreservability.

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