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Theriogenology. 2005 Jan 15;63(2):445-57.

Flow cytometric evaluation of sperm parameters in relation to fertility potential.

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RMC Gunn Building (B19), The Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia.


Most laboratory methods used to evaluate semen quality have not correlated highly with fertilizing capacity. The discovery of a variety of fluorochromes and compounds conjugated to fluorescent probes has enabled a more widespread analysis of sperm attributes, and in conjunction with the flow cytometer, permit the evaluation of a large number of spermatozoa. A number of characteristics of sperm integrity, viability and function can be assessed by flow cytometry. The DNA status of spermatozoa has been determined using the metachromatic properties of acridine orange (AO). AO staining, when used in the sperm chromatin structure assay (SCSA), correlates with fertility in a number of species. DNA fragmentation can also be assessed using the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assay, which identifies DNA strand breaks by labeling free 3'-OH termini with modified nucleotides. The status of the sperm acrosome can be determined using fluorescently labeled lectins and LysoTracker Green DND-26, a fluorescent acidotropic probe. Capacitation status has been observed through calcium-mediated changes using chlortetracycline (CTC) or by changes in membrane fluidity monitored by the binding of the fluorescent amphiphilic probe, Merocyanine 540. Fluorescently labeled annexin-V, C6NBD and Ro-09-0198 can also be used to detect changes in membrane phospholipid distribution. Cell viability can be determined using the propensity of propidium iodide (PI), ethidium homodimer-1 (EthD-1) or Yo-Pro-1 to permeate damaged membranes. These are generally more adaptable to clinical flow cytometry than the bisbenzimide membrane impermeable stain, Hoechst 33258, which excites in the ultraviolet range and requires UV laser equipment. Mitochondrial function can be determined using rhodamine 123 (R123) and MitoTracker Green FM (MITO) and 5,5',6,6'-tetrachloro-1,1',3,3'-tetraethylbenzimidazolyl-carbocyanine iodide (JC-1). Flow cytometry is a tool that may be used in the future to monitor many new potential markers of sperm function.

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